NASA: A truck-sized asteroid is headed toward Earth one day before the November election

·3 min read
  • An asteroid has a slim chance of entering the Earth's atmosphere on November 2.

  • That's one day before the US election. 

  • Due to its small size, the asteroid, dubbed "2018 VP1," would burn off while hurtling towards the planet.

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An asteroid has a slim chance of entering the Earth's atmosphere November 2, or one day before the US election, according to NASA. 

Named "2018VP1," the asteroid is pretty tiny, with an estimated diameter of 1.8 to 3.9 meters, NASA data show. 

It's only 0.41% likely to actually impact the Earth, but celestial objects that size tend to burn up in the atmosphere anyway, NASA told Business Insider.

"Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth," a spokesperson for NASA told Business Insider. "If it were to enter our planet's atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size."

Related: Why NASA spacesuits are white

2018VP1 has had a few close encounters with Earth before, dating back to 1970. It last visited in November of 2018, roughly when it was discovered at California's Palomar Observatory

It's due back, after a two-year orbit around the sun, to come within 4,800 and 260,000 miles of our atmosphere, NASA data show. For reference, the International Space Station sits about 254 miles above the planet.

The size of asteroids like this one makes them hard to spot until they get close to Earth, but the majority pass by much farther away than the Moon, NASA said in a recent release

In fact, one dubbed 2020 QG passed the earth just 1,830 miles above the Indian Ocean last week — the closest such encounter on record — and NASA didn't even see it coming, they said.

In 2005, NASA was directed by Congress to discover 90% of potentially dangerous asteroids larger than 459 feet in size by the end of 2020. 

"It's quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. 

"There's typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope," he said.

Between the coronavirus pandemic, a reckoning with racial justice, sky-high depression and anxiety, election season, and other recent events, people are joking about the asteroid's perceived embodiment of 2020. 

"If 2020 couldn't get any wilder, NASA now predicts an asteroid will come close to earth the day before the U.S. election," a San Francisco-based news outlet wrote on Twitter.

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