Asteroid heading towards Earth ‘has 0.41 per cent chance of hitting planet’

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An asteroid which is hurtling towards Earth has a 0.41 per cent chance of careering into the planet, according to Nasa data.

The space rock – with the catchy name 2018VP1 – is predicted to pass near Earth on November 2, one day before Joe Biden takes on Donald Trump in the US Presidential election.

Space agency NASA said there were three potential impacts but, “based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days”, it did not think a direct impact was likely, according to The Independent.

The news comes just a week after a car-sized asteroidnarrowly missed the planet last weekend, with NASA having admitted it “didn’t see it coming”.

Known as 2020QG, it flew just 1,830 miles over the southern Indian Ocean on August 16 – that’s the closest an asteroid has flown past Earth on record.

2018VP1, the asteroid heading towards Earth later this year, was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California two years ago.

It is not considered a ‘potentially hazardous object’ due to its small size of around two metres (6.5 feet) in diameter.

Potentially hazardous objects – usually asteroids or comets – are identified by NASA as those which have an orbit taking them close to Earth, and which are large enough to cause significant regional damage if they hit the planet.

2020QG was estimated to measure between 2.9m and 6.4m in diameter, making it roughly the same size as a car.

While NASA regularly monitors the skies for approaching asteroids, it somehow missed 2020 QG.

Speaking to Business Insider, Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies, said: “The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun.

“We didn’t see it coming.”

He added: “It’s really cool to see a small asteroid come by this close, because we can see the Earth’s gravity dramatically bend its trajectory.

“Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet.”

If an asteroid is found to be on a collision course for Earth, NASA has several tactics up its sleeve to prevent a collision.

A spokesperson for the space agency explained: “One of the techniques suggested for deflecting an asteroid includes nuclear fusion weapons set off above the surface to slightly change the asteroid’s velocity without fracturing it.

“High speed neutrons from the explosion would irradiate a shell of material on the surface of the asteroid facing the explosion. The material in this surface shell would then expand and blow off, thus producing a recoil upon the asteroid itself.

“A very modest velocity change in the asteroid’s motion (only a few millimeters per second), acting over several years, can cause the asteroid to miss the Earth entirely. However, the trick is to gently nudge the asteroid out of harm’s way and not to blow it up.

“This latter option, though popular in the movies, only creates a bigger problem when all the pieces encounter the Earth.”

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