NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office has warned of the chance of newly discovered asteroid, 2023 DW, colliding with planet Earth in approximately 20 years’ time. On 27 February, the asteroid, estimated to be 165 feet in diameter or the length of an Olympic swimming pool, was found to be unusually positioned for near-earth asteroids, with a roughly 1-in-600 chance of impact. The estimated risk level is higher than average, though NASA has stated that it is still only a “very small chance” of direct collision with Earth, which is anticipated to decline as clearer observations are available.
The asteroid is anticipated to come into close contact with Earth on 14 February 2046, with predictions of a 1-in-625 chance of direct impact, which is expected to be recalculated daily by the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre. Orbit analysts are mentioned to be monitoring 2023 DW and updating predictions as more data is collected.
The immediate impact of a collision with 2023 DW would be less severe than with the asteroid which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, given its smaller size. Nevertheless, its landing near a heavily populated area or a large city could cause severe destruction. This warning has come alongside developments in asteroids defence, NASA recently confirmed the effectiveness of its Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission in changing the course of an asteroid to divert it from Earth. The test involved slamming a spacecraft directly into the asteroid and four studies confirmed the mission had functioned as planned.
NASA has also stated that scientists are continuing to develop ways to defend against such asteroids and expect new technologies to be available with improvements over the coming years. Interest in asteroid defence has recently been strengthened following the passing of a 2,000 feet asteroid that flew closer to Earth than the moon in late March.