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Asteroid Could Strike Earth Before Election Day But Won’t Cause Major Damage, NASA Says

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Asteroid Could Strike Earth Before Election Day But Won’t Cause Major Damage, NASA Says
An asteroid slated to pass by Earth the day before the U.S. election would burn up if it entered Earth's atmosphere. MARHARYTA MARKO / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you thought 2020 couldn't get any more dramatic, think again.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) predicts that an asteroid with a 0.41 percent chance of hitting Earth will pass by our planet Nov. 2, the day before U.S. election day, The Independent reported.

But you shouldn't worry about the asteroid doing any real damage, NASA was quick to point out.

"Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth!" NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted Sunday. "It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet's atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size."

2018VP1 was first discovered in November 2018 from the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, WGME reported. At the time, it was 450,000 kilometers (280,000 miles) away from Earth, ScienceAlert explained. But it follows a two-year orbital cycle and is currently headed back in our direction.

It is expected to pass within 4,994.76 kilometers (approximately 3,104 miles) of Earth, which is close for a celestial object, and the reason it has a one in 240 chance of hitting us. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said there were three potential impacts, according to The Independent.

But, "based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days," it did not think a direct hit was likely.

Further, its small size means it would burn up if it entered the atmosphere. To be considered dangerous, an asteroid must be at least 460 feet, according to ScienceAlert. The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was six miles across when it struck.

Congress has tasked NASA with finding 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroids that are 460 feet or more in diameter, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But these larger, more threatening asteroids are actually much easier to detect from far away.

On Aug. 16, an SUV-sized asteroid called 2020 QG broke a record for coming closer to Earth than any other known near-Earth asteroid when it passed 1,830 miles above the Southern Indian Ocean.

"It's quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast," CNEOS Director Paul Chodas said in a press release. "There's typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope."

2020 QG was 10 to 20 feet across, about double the size of 2018VP1, and it too would have disintegrated into a fireball if it made impact.

This happens several times a year without incident, according to NASA.

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