Giant Asteroid 86666 is headed for Earth this weekend…but don’t panic, Nasa says the 1.5-mile wide space rock poses ‘no threat’
Just days after doomsdayers claimed the end of the world was nigh, a Nasa animation has revealed a giant asteroid is heading towards the planet.
Called Asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10), the 1.5-mile wide (2.5km) space rock is due to make its closest pass on 10 October.
An asteroid of its size has the potential to cause global devastation if it was to hit Earth, but Nasa has said it poses no threat at all.
Asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10) is due to make its closest pass on 10 October (illustrated). An asteroid of its size has the potential to cause global devastation if it was to hit Earth but Nasa said it poses no threat of impact
All asteroids are monitored by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab’s Near-Earth Object Observations program.
This program keeps track of the orbits of comets and asteroids and publishes warnings if one of these rocks is due to collide with Earth, or will come close to doing so.
People can also monitor the comets and asteroids themselves by typing the name of the rock into JPL’s Small-Body Database Browser.
This browser creates an interactive module that can be zoomed in and out of, and filtered to show orbits on different days.
Using this browser to track 86666, the orbits of Earth and the asteroid began to significantly coincide at the start of September, they reach their closest points this weekend and throughout the course of next week.
All asteroids are monitored by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab’s Near-Earth Object Observations program. This program keeps track of the orbits of comets and asteroids and publishes warnings if one of these rocks is due to collide with Earth. An asteroid just a quarter-of-a-mile wide could cause global devastation if it was to hit
They are then shown moving away from each other by mid-November.
Asteroid 86666 was first spotted 16.2 years ago on 30 March 2000 by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona.
In August, Nasa was forced to post a blog dispelling the countless rumours and speculation about asteroids that were due to pass the Earth in September.
This speculation suggested that an asteroid would impact Earth, sometime between 15 and 28 September near Puerto Rico.
Paul Chodas, manager of Nasa’s Near-Earth Object office said at the time there was ‘no scientific basis or shred of evidence’ to confirm those rumours.
He added that there would be no Earth impacts ‘anytime in the foreseeable future’ and all known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a ‘0.01 per cent chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years.’
Despite these reassurances, the program’s official Twitter handle addressed the speculation surrounding Asteroid 86666 by saying: ‘In response to Qs, asteroid 86666 will safely pass Earth Oct 10 by over 15 million mi/25 million km. It poses zero threat.’
By comparison, 15 million miles is around half the distance between Earth and Mars. The moon is 238,855 miles (384,400km) away.
In 2011 there were rumours 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 assertions surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012, insisting the world would end with a large asteroid impact.
To address the speculattion, the program’s official Twitter handle tweeted: ‘In response to Qs, asteroid 86666 will safely pass Earth Oct 10 by over 15 million mi/25 million km. It poses zero threat’ (pictured)
Earlier his year, asteroids 2004 BL86 and 2014 YB35 were also said to be on dangerous near-Earth trajectories, but their flybys in January and March went without incident.
Nasa detects, tracks and characterises 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,’ finds these objects and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to the planet.
At the time of the writing, the current status says: ‘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.’