KEY POINTS

  • NASA has detected an asteroid that has a non-zero possibility of hitting Earth
  • A potential asteroid impact could take place in November

The asteroid that NASA's data confirms has a non-zero possibility of hitting Earth will arrive before the year ends.

The dangerous asteroid is currently included in a database maintained by NASA’s Sentry, an automated tracking system that monitors all known asteroids that have non-zero impact probabilities. This means all the asteroids listed in this database have a chance of colliding with Earth.

NASA describes Sentry as "a highly automated collision monitoring system that continually scans the most current asteroid catalog for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years. Whenever a potential impact is detected it will be analyzed and the results immediately published here."

According to Sentry, the asteroid, identified as 2018 VP1, has an estimated diameter of about 13 feet. It is currently flying across the Solar System towards Earth at a speed of almost 22,000 miles per hour, which is over 10 times faster than the muzzle velocity of a 5.56 rifle round.

NASA noted that 2018 VP1 is an Apollo asteroid. Like other asteroids that have the same classification, 2018 VP1 follows a wide orbit around the Sun. However, as it makes its way around the giant star, the asteroid is known to directly intersect Earth orbit.

As indicated in Sentry’s database, 2018 VP1’s Earth-crossing orbit could cause a total of three potential impacts on Earth. The asteroid’s first possible collision could happen on Nov. 2, 2020 at 2:11 am EST.

During this time, the asteroid is expected to intersect Earth’s orbit from a close distance of only 0.00280 astronomical units, which is equivalent to 260,000 miles. This is almost the same as the distance between the Earth and the Moon. 

According to Sentry, the asteroid has a 1 in 240 odds of impact or a 0.41% chance of Earth impact.

Fortunately, the asteroid will not cause an impact event if it hits the planet. The asteroid is too small to survive a trip through the atmosphere. Due to its size, the asteroid will most likely burn up and generate a bright explosion in the sky.