Close Call with Asteroid 2006 XG1 in 2041

Asteroid Eros (not 2006 XG1). Image credit: NASAI don’t want to get you worried, or even mildly concerned. No need to panic. In fact, just read this little piece, and remark with interest that an asteroid is going to get really really close to the Earth on October 31, 2041. It might – I repeat might – have a small, insignificant chance of hitting the Earth and causing regional devastation. Like a 1 in 40,000 chance. Those are pretty good odds when you think of it.

Still not panicking? Good.

The asteroid in question is called 2006 XG1. It was discovered on September 20, 2006 by the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey, which surveys the observable sky to search for Near Earth Objects (NEOs); asteroids whose orbits interact with the Earth, and may impact with us in the future.

The object wasn’t originally considered a risk, but followup observations raised the chances to a 1 on the Torino Impact scale.

Here’s what the Torino Scale has to say about level 1 objects:

A routine discovery in which a pass near the Earth is predicted that poses no unusual level of danger. Current calculations show the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or public concern. New telescopic observations very likely will lead to re-assignment to Level 0.

There are currently only two objects on the Torino Scale with a risk higher than 0: 1950 DA, and now 2006 XG1. Here’s the interesting thing, though. The threat specifically from 2006 XG1 is still only one-tenth the background level we face from collisions all the time.

2006 XG1 is estimated to measure between 600 and 1,400 metres (.4 to .8 miles) across. For NEOs, that’s actually pretty large. If an asteroid that big were to hit the Earth, it would release the energy equivalent of 1700 megatons of TNT and cause regional scale devastation.

Although it could hit us, the most likely estimate guesses that 2006 XG1 will pass by on October 31, 2041 at a distance of only 5,000 km (3,100 miles). Consider that the Moon is about 385,000 km away. Whatever happens, it’ll be a close call.

Here’s more information on the asteroid from NASA.

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