KEY POINTS

  • An asteroid is expected to make a close approach to Earth a day before the U.S. elections
  • NASA clarifies that the asteroid poses no threat to Earth
  • Just last week, the closest ever asteroid flyby was detected 

An asteroid headed in Earth's direction and is set to come close on Nov. 2, only one day before the U.S. presidential elections. 

NASA data reveals that an asteroid is headed for the Earth's orbit. Dubbed 2018VP1, the asteroid is quite small compared to other asteroids, with an estimated diameter of just over 6 feet.

According to the agency, the chance that the asteroid will actually enter the Earth's atmosphere is just 0.41% and, even if it does, it will likely burn up because of its "extremely small size."

"Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth!" NASA Asteroid Watch said in a tweet.

2018VP1 is not exactly a new asteroid. First discovered in November of 2018 at California's Palomar Observatory, 2018VP1 has had close encounters with the Earth in 1970. NASA close-approach data shows that 2018VP1 had also made close approaches with Earth in 2005, 2007 and 2018.

NASA does monitor potentially dangerous asteroid approaches but celestial objects of such small size are not as easy to spot until they come closer to the Earth. By the time they are bright enough to be spotted using a telescope, there are only a few days before the close approach.

Just last week, for instance, the Center for Near Earth Objects at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory spotted the closest asteroid flyby without impacting the planet as asteroid 2020 QG passed about 1,830 miles over the Indian Ocean at 12:08 a.m. EDT on Aug. 16. Although it was slightly bigger than 2018VP1 at 10 to 20 feet, it still would have burned up and become a bright fireball in the sky if it had entered the atmosphere.

In this case, 2020 QG was only discovered six hours after it had already passed by. According to NASA, the vast majority of such Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) safely pass the Earth, at distances that are typically much farther than the moon.

As for 2018VP1, it's clear that it does not pose a major threat to Earth. At most, it could end up becoming a bright fireball in the sky.