Set the date: on May 6, 2022, Earth could face its demise from a ginormous, continent-flattening asteroid.
Yeah, I know you’re rolling your eyes – another day, another killer asteroid. You’ll probably be thinking: ‘This is just paranoid riffraff.’
Well… it is, really. However, there is actually a dangerous lump of space rock barrelling towards us, and there is a (hilariously) small chance it could wallop our planet.
Let me introduce you to JF1. He’s chunky, dangerous and you best believe he’s coming.
NASA first discovered the asteroid back in 2009. Over the past decade, the space agency’s automated asteroid watching system – known as Sentry – has been tasked with keeping an eye on it.
It’s been designated as a ‘near-Earth object’ (NEO), meaning it’s in the Sun’s orbit and presents a ‘threat’ to our planet.
A NASA spokesperson explained:
Some asteroids and comets follow orbital paths that take them much closer to the Sun and therefore Earth than usual. If a comet’s or asteroid’s approach brings it to within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun, we call it a near-Earth object.
One astronomical unit equates to around 93 million miles – so it’s not exactly close. What’s scary is how big it is – experts report that JF1 measures around 130 meters in diameter, adding that it could be around the same size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
If JF1 makes landfall, it would collide with the force of 230 kilotonnes of TNT. To put that into context, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 exploded with the force of 15 kilotonnes of TNT.
A 2018 White House report on the dangers of an asteroid impact explained:
Larger NEOs greater than 140 meters would have the potential to inflict severe damage to entire regions or continents. Such objects would strike Earth with a minimum energy of over 60 megatons of TNT, which is more than the most powerful nuclear device ever tested. Fortunately, these are far less common and are easier to detect and track than smaller NEOs.
NASA added that Sentry ‘continually scans the most current asteroid catalogue for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years’. Another asteroid is logged for impact in 2880 (not a typo).
Don’t worry yourself too much though. NASA place the odds of JF1 actually hitting us at 0.026%, therefore there’s more than a 99% chance that it will not. I doubt Paddy Power will let me put a tenner on.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.