This orb, dubbed “2023 DW”, was spotted with a diameter of 50 meters for the first time on February 26 by a small observatory in Chile.
Soon, the US space agencies “NASA” and the European “ESA” classified it at the top of the list of potentially dangerous objects, as its theoretical path passes near Earth at a distance close enough to pose a danger.
In the event that this happens, the calculations predict the date of the possible collision on February 14, 2046, Valentine’s Day. This news topped the headlines of some newspapers, which advised the lovers to cancel their plans on this date.
At the end of last February, the probability of the asteroid colliding with Earth was one in 847… But last Sunday, the probability increased to one in 432, according to the list of risks drawn up by the European Space Agency. NASA estimates also point in the same direction.
However, the head of the European Space Agency’s Planetary Defense Office, Richard Moesel, told AFP that the probability dropped overnight to one from 1,584 last Tuesday.
He added that the probability will decrease “with each monitoring process until it reaches zero within a few days at the latest.”
His NASA counterpart Lindley Johnson echoed this, saying, “At this point, nobody should worry.” According to him, it is common for collision expectations to increase for a short period in the days following the discovery of a new asteroid, before declining afterwards.
The Earth is initially located in a “zone of uncertainty” about the asteroid’s path, which justifies the temporary increase in risk, before new observations are recorded that lead to the exclusion of the Earth’s presence on this prospective path.
But what if the “DW 2023” asteroid collided with us, after all? Experts point out that the extent of the damage will depend on the composition of this orb.
If it was a pile of debris, the scenario might resemble the “Tunguska event” in Siberia in 1908, a large explosion attributed to the fall of an asteroid, as indicated by the scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, David Farnokia.
The celestial body, similar to DW 2023, exploded in the atmosphere over a sparsely populated region, flattening trees over an area of nearly 2,000 square kilometres.
The asteroid may also be a “solid piece of iron”, such as the one that created the massive Barringer crater in the US state of Arizona 50,000 years ago, according to Richard Moisel.
In both cases, due to its size, the asteroid “2023 DW” will only cause “local damage”, without a significant impact on the rest of the planet, the expert asserts.
The body, which revolves around the sun, passed near the Earth on February 18, a week before it was observed. And then it was at a distance of nearly nine million kilometers.
If it collides with our planet in the year 2046, its speed will be 15 kilometers per second, or 54 thousand kilometers per hour, according to estimates.
There would be about a 70% chance that it would land in the Pacific Ocean, but the potential collision area would also include the United States, Australia or Southeast Asia.
However, experts point out that the world is no longer helpless in the face of such a threat. Last year, NASA’s Dart spacecraft was deliberately smashed into the asteroid Dimorphos, about 11 million kilometers from Earth, allowing its trajectory to be diverted.
And David Farnocchia reassures, saying, “The Dart mission gives us a guarantee that such a mission will succeed” in confronting the asteroid “2023 DW.”
Moisel concludes that there is “plenty of time,” 23 years to be exact, to prepare for this.