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Surprising Science

This Is (Still) The Asteroid Most Likely To Cause Global Havoc

Originally given a 1-in-300 chance of hitting Earth — 50 percent higher than the average for all other near-Earth objects located to date — 1950 DA has had its odds reassessed. Fortunately it’s not expected to arrive for another 866 years.

What’s the Latest Development?

Recent research by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists on 1950 DA — a 1.1-kilometer-wide asteroid first spotted in 1950 and seen again in 2000 and 2001 — confirms past calculations that of all the asteroids and other near-Earth objects located to date, it’s the one most likely to collide with the Earth in the future. Previous research put the odds at 1 in 300 at the most, which is “a risk 50% greater than that of the average hazard due to all other asteroids from now to then.” The new study applies a law of physics known as the Yarkovsky effect to the asteroid’s trajectory. Its impact risk now measures -0.58 on NASA’s Palermo Scale, which qualifies it for “careful monitoring.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Fortunately the JPL team knows the date of 1950 DA’s possible arrival: March 16, 2880. This gives them plenty of time to figure out ways to divert it if necessary. The key phrase is “if necessary”: Although the asteroid’s orbit has been plotted, several other factors in addition to the Yarkovsky effect could affect a future collision. Combined with the probability risk, the team is fairly confident that humans living 866 years from now won’t need to worry about 1950 DA.

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Read it at Discovery News


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