Recent blogs and Web postings are claiming that an asteroid will impact Earth, sometime between 15 September and 28 September 2015.
On one of those dates, as rumours go, there will be an impact – “evidently” near Puerto Rico – causing destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the US and Mexico, as well as Central and South America.
NASA has published some facts to debunk the rumours.
“There is no scientific basis – not one shred of evidence – that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” says Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
In fact, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program says there have been no asteroids or comets observed that would impact Earth anytime in the foreseeable future. All known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a 0,01% chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years.
The Near-Earth Object office at JPL is a key group involved with the international collaboration of astronomers and scientists who keep watch on the sky with their telescopes, looking for asteroids that could do harm to the planet and predicting their paths through space for the foreseeable future. If there were any observations on anything headed our way, Chodas and his colleagues believe they would know about it.
“If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now,” he says.
However, Chodas points out this isn’t the first time an unsubstantiated claim of a celestial object about to impact Earth has been made – and it probably won’t be the last.
In 2011 there were rumors about the so-called “doomsday” comet Elenin, which never posed any danger of harming Earth and broke up into a stream of small debris out in space. Then there were Internet assertions surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012, insisting the world would end with a large asteroid impact. And just this year, asteroids 2004 BL86 and 2014 YB35 were said to be on dangerous near-Earth trajectories, but their flybys of our planet in January and March went without incident – just as NASA predicted.
“Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth,” says Chodas. “In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”
NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing within 30-million miles of Earth using both
ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers these objects, characterises the physical nature of a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. There are no known credible impact threats to date – only the continuous and harmless infall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere.