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Newly discovered asteroid could hit Earth on Valentine's Day 2046: NASA

Workers on scaffolding repaint the NASA logo near the top of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) Workers on scaffolding repaint the NASA logo near the top of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
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It’s not quite as dramatic as the plot of Michael Bay’s 1998 sci-fi film “Armageddon,” but NASA scientists say a newly discovered asteroid could potentially collide with Earth on Valentine’s Day in 2046.

The asteroid has a 0.18 per cent chance, or one in 560 odds, of colliding with the Earth that day. The space rock is about 49.29 metres in diameter, or just over the size of two tennis courts, and orbits the sun about every 271 days.

The asteroid, which NASA calls 2023 DW, is currently listed as a one on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, which measures the risk of impact. The scale ranges from zero to 10, with zero meaning no chance of hitting Earth and 10 meaning catastrophic collision is certain.

According to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), a one on the Torino Scale means the asteroid is “a routine discovery in which a pass near the Earth is predicted that poses no unusual level of danger.”

CNEOS says current calculations show the chance of the asteroid hitting the Earth is “extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or public concern,” and further observation will very likely lead scientists to assign the impact probability to Level 0.

2023 DW has nine other opportunities to collide with the Earth. However, NASA calculates there is at least a 99.99 per cent chance it will miss in all of those instances.

“We've been tracking a new asteroid named 2023 DW that has a very small chance of impacting Earth in 2046. Often when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits years into the future,” NASA’s Planetary Defense Co-ordination Office said in a tweet from its @AsteroidWatch account Tuesday.

“Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update predictions as more data comes in.”

About 10 years ago, a meteor roughly the size of an SUV exploded over central Russia injuring nearly 1,000 people and causing about US$33 million in damages.

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