Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) The US space agency has blown away the ongoing rumour windmill on social media and various posts about a giant space rock impacting the Blue Marble sometime between September 15-28 this year.
“There is no scientific basis — not one shred of evidence — that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s near-earth object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
On one of those dates, as rumours go, there will be an impact — “evidently” near Puerto Rico — causing widespread destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the US and Mexico as well as Central and South America.
That’s the rumour that has gone viral — now here are the facts.
“In fact, there is no asteroid or comet that will impact Earth anytime in the foreseeable future,’ Chodas added.
All known “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids” have less than a 0.01 percent chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years.
“If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now,” he said in a statement.
This is not the first time a wild, unsubstantiated claim of a celestial object about to impact Earth has been made.
In 2011, there were rumours about the so-called “doomsday” comet Elenin, which never posed any danger of harming Earth and broke up into a stream of small debris out in space.
Then there were internet assertions surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec 21, 2012, insisting that the world would end with a large asteroid impact.
This year, asteroids 2004 BL86 and 2014 YB35 were said to be on dangerous near-Earth trajectories, but their flybys of our planet in January and March went without incident.
“Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth,” Chodas noted.
In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century, he emphasised.
The near-earth object observations programme, commonly called “Spaceguard”, discovers these objects, characterises the physical nature of a subset of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
There are no known credible impact threats to date — only the continuous and harmless infall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere.
NASA detects, tracks and characterises asteroids and comets passing 30 million miles of Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes.