The chance an asteroid will hit Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046 remains very small but has continued to grow with more observations, NASA reported on Sunday, as astronomers worked to gather more data.
2023 DW was first discovered by astronomers in Chile at the end of February and, with about two weeks worth of observations, has a 1 in 360 chance of hitting Earth at 21:45 UTC on February 14, 2046.
This is up from 1 in 560 a week ago and 1 in 1,200 on March 1.
The asteroid is about 50 meters (164 feet) in diameter, more than double in size when compared to the meteor which caused an air burst over Russia in 2013, damaging homes and injuring close to 1,500 people.
“2023 DW would have an impact energy equivalent to 4 million tons of TNT. So, a decent-size nuke blast then,” science journalist Dr. Robin George Andrews said. “If this hit Earth, it would likely blow up somewhere in the atmosphere. An airburst over or close to a city would devastate it.”
Andrews said it’s not uncommon for the chance of an impact to rise before suddenly dropping to zero. “Only a very small portion of the asteroid’s orbit has been observed, and (as usual) with more of its orbit in the databanks, the probability estimates become rapidly more certain,” he said.
2023 DW is currently at the top of the European Space Agency’s Risk List with a 1 out of 10 on the Torino scale – meaning there is no cause for public concern at this time. Further observations could reassign the risk to zero.
“Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update predictions as more data comes in,” NASA said last week.
In January, a newly-discovered asteroid flew past Earth at a height of 3,600 kilometers (2,200 miles), making it one of the closest encounters ever recorded. And in February, a 1-meter asteroid was discovered only a few hours before entering the atmosphere, lighting up the sky in parts of France and Western Europe.