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NASA has warned an asteroid has "one in 240" chance of hitting our planet just a day before the US election.
On Tuesday, November 3, the US chooses its president for the next four years – but there’s a small chance the all-important election could be disrupted by a visitor from the stars.
A small asteroid called 2018VP1 is set to make a close approach to Earth 24 hours before the polls open with US President Donald Trump hoping to beat Democrat Joe Biden to another term in office.
The Centre for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released a prediction of 2018VP1’s trajectory based on 21 observations over 13 days.
While NASA scientists have identified “three potential impacts”, the overall chance of the six-and-a-half foot asteroid hitting the Earth remains low at around 0.41% – or a one in 240 chance.
Most of 2018VP1’s current course would take it over the Pacific Ocean.
Michael Narlock, the head of astronomy at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, said an object of that size is unlikely to do more than create what astronomers call a bolide, or fireball.
It would be similar to the one that caused a dramatic light show over Michigan in January 2018.
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We have seen regular impacts of celestial objects on the Moon – and the Shoemaker-Levy comet left a huge scar on Jupiters surface – so we shouldn’t be complacent about the threat from asteroid and comet impacts.
“There are definitely planet killers in our solar system,” he said.
Mr Narlock added that they can be very hard to spot against the blackness of space.
2018VP1’s exact composition is not known.
An iron asteroid of the same approximate size would probably begin to break up at an altitude of around 41,000 feet, and shatter into a “strewn field” of bullet-sized pieces at roughly 36,600 feet.
The energy of the airburst would be in the region of 4.05 x 1,012 joules, or 0.97 x 10 -3 megatons.
However without knowing the precise makeup of the object, listed as an apollo asteroid at its discovery in 2018, any prediction of its precise course or impact velocity has to remain an educated guess.
- Donald Trump
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