2014 AZ5: The Fake Asteroid that Won’t Hit Earth

by Nancy Atkinson on March 7, 2013

Artists impression of an asteroid flying by Earth. Credit: NASA

Artists impression of an asteroid flying by Earth. Credit: NASA

Be careful where you get your news. Some websites have headlines that are screaming “GIANT ASTEROID HEADING TO EARTH!” or “2014 END OF THE WORLD!” It’s been billed as the largest threat to Earth in a millennium, and this supposed nearly 300 meter (1,000 ft.) -wide asteroid is spurring “urgent meetings going on among scientists on how deflect it.”

This asteroid can’t hit Earth because it doesn’t exist. Or at the very least, it doesn’t exist yet. The first clue this asteroid is a fake is its name: 2014 AZ5. Asteroids are named for the year they are discovered, and since it is only 2013…. well, you see the issue.

Additionally, this asteroid isn’t listed on JPL’s Small Body Database, or the Minor Planet Center’s website, the official places where all known asteroids are listed. As much as some people like to think there are conspiracies and government cover-ups, absolutely every asteroid that’s ever been detected is listed on these sites.

There is, actually, another asteroid that will be whizzing by Earth this week at a very safe distance of about 950,000 km. On March 9, Asteroid 2013 ET, a very large 100 meter-wide rock will make its closest approach. Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope project will host a webcast from the Virtual Telescope robotic facility in Italy on March 8, 2013 at 19:00 UT (2 pm EST). You can watch for free on their website. “It is worth to underline that there are NO risks at all of collision,” Masi said.

Here’s an image of 2013 ET that Masi took on March 4, 2013:

Asteroid 2013 ET imaged by the Virtual Telescope. Credit: Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope.

Asteroid 2013 ET imaged by the Virtual Telescope. Credit: Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope.

Hat tip: Ian Musgrave.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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