Love on the Rocks: Asteroid with 1 in 400 Odds Could Hit Earth on Valentine's Day 2046
Written by: Sam Orlando
Scientists have identified an asteroid, known as 2023 DW, that could potentially collide with Earth on Valentine's Day in 2046. The odds of the asteroid hitting our planet are currently estimated at 1 in 400. This estimate comes from astronomer astronomer Piero Sicoli, who tracks asteroid risks and tweeted the estimate on March 2, 2023.
Sicoli's tweet, which has been viewed more than 133,000 times, said: "#2023 DW. With just 3 days of arc, I found about 1 in 400 chance of impact on Feb. 14, 2046 (JPL 1/770). Surely this possibility will soon be ruled out, however, as an exercise, I calculated where the asteroid might fall if this possibility occurred."
Many in the United States, from Washington DC and Northern Virginia to Los Angeles, may become very nervous upon viewing Sicoli's Tweet, after all his probability post also shows a possible direct strike for those areas in 2046. It is critical to remember what Sicoli himself said, this is a snapshot of data and is likely to change over time. Still, seeing it on a map with odds of 1 in 400 is enough to give anyone some pause.
Many were surprised to hear the estimate of 1 in 400, and to be sure we hope Sicoli's right, and the probabilities adjust. However, we normally hear the odds of winning the lottery at 1 in hundreds of millions, and the idea that an asteroid impacting Earth could be so real is a wakeup call to everyone. To put this into perspective, let's compare it to some other events in life with similar odds.
Winning an Oscar: For an aspiring actor, the odds of taking home an Academy Award are around 1 in 11,500. While a prestigious acting career may be a dream for many, it's interesting to note that the likelihood of winning an Oscar are much lower than a massive space rock crashing into our planet on the most romantic day of the year, 2046.
Being Struck by Lightning: The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are about 1 in 114,195. With the odds of the asteroid impact being exponentially higher, you may want to think about falling rocks as much as you think about lightning in a thunderstorm.
Becoming a Professional NBA Player: The chances of making it as a professional athlete are approximately 1 in 3,333. For sports enthusiasts, the risk of an asteroid hitting Earth is way higher than the likelihood of turning your passion into a career.
Finding a Pearl in an Oyster: The odds of discovering a pearl while enjoying a plate of oysters are around 1 in 12,000. With the asteroid impact being much more likely, perhaps Valentine's Day 2046 will be the perfect time to treat your loved one to a seafood dinner!
Getting Audited by the IRS: For US taxpayers over the last 20 years, statisticians estimate the odds of being audited by the IRS by any taxpayer is about 1 in 400. Have you ever worried about being audited by the IRS? If so, you might want to add a giant space rock to your list of things to worry about.
The European Space Agency discovered the 50-meter wide (that estimate is subject to change as we learn more) asteroid on February 26 and added it to the "risk list," which details space objects that have the potential to affect Earth. Currently, 2023 DW is ranked at one on the Torino scale, which means it poses no unusual level of danger, and the chance of collision is extremely unlikely. However, it is the only asteroid on the list with a ranking higher than 0.
While the odds of 2023 DW colliding with Earth are very small, scientists will continue to monitor its trajectory closely. Put into perspective, we spend a significant amount of time thinking about things that have much lower odds than 1 in 400. As we approach Valentine's Day 2046, perhaps we should keep in mind the astronomical odds we face in both love and life. If we do, maybe we will learn to appreciate both love and life more.