Asteroid, known as 'The Rock,' to pass right by earth Wednesday

We're separating fact from fiction as an asteroid comes close to Earth

It's almost twice the size of the Empire State building, and it's expected to have a near miss with the planet Earth Wednesday night.

It’s an asteroid that scientist have known about for a few years.

Still, something that big, and that close, has people asking, "What if?"

The official name of the big space rock, which will pass about 1 million miles from us, is technically named 2014 JO25. The numbers refer to when and where it was discovered.

It's about 2,000 feet wide.

We wanted to verify what we know about it for you, and debunk some of the rumors, too.

We got our information from the CHABOT Space and Science Center, NASA, The Catalina Sky Survey, and spoke with Antonio Paris from Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry.

The first issue that seemed to concern folks reacting on social media, was the possibility of damage to the Earth even with a million-mile cushion.

One commenter suggests, “This asteroid may be potentially dangerous, as it is big enough to have its own satellites or mini moons orbiting," and "On Wednesday they may well break off and get into geo orbit of earth and become a hazard."

Well, we were able to verify that, so far, NASA's near earth object detection system has not located any such objects. If they’re there, they would likely be too small, according to NASA, to be any real threat once entering Earth’s atmosphere.

We asked MOSI's Antonio Paris to verify if that's possible.

“There's no chance, at least whatsoever that we understand how asteroids function,” said Paris, “That it's just going to suddenly swing around and hit us. Or, one of its little satellites would do the same thing, as well.”

We also wanted to verify whether a rock that size striking the Earth would really be catastrophic.

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The answer, we found out, depends on where it hits and what it's made out of.

Paris says if it lands in water, that's clearly not as bad as striking a city. And it has a better chance of breaking up into smaller pieces if it's made out of rock, rather than metal. He says an asteroid as big as 2014 JO25 could damage or destroy an area the size of the distance between Tampa and Atlanta.

But even with that, he says, it would not be an "extinction" event like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

“An extinction event requires a minimum radius of a 2.5 miles object,” said Paris. “The one for example, for the dinosaurs, that was 2.5. That, was extinction at that level. Something this small, it's relatively small – 2,000 feet, would be catastrophic.”

“Fortunately for us, these things don't come along too often,” added Paris. “A catastrophic event happens about every 50,000 to 100,000 years. An extinction event, every 65 million to 100 million years.

Other issues we tried to verify:

NASA says it is, in fact, tracking about 15,000 so-called near Earth objects.

And reports that a similar rock about the same size will have a much better chance of hitting the earth in 10 years are true.

Antonio Paris verified that in 2027, the asteroid 19-99 AN-10 will come within 236,000 miles if us, and would likely be visible to the naked eye at that distance. It also has a current 28% chance of striking our planet.

And despite what you may have seen at the movies, there was at least one more thing to verify.

NASA has done plenty of research, but has no definitive plan that would re-direct or blow-up asteroids if they were in fact on a collision course. Fortunately, right now, they’re not aware of any that are.

VERIFY: Sources

Antonio Paris, MOSI manager of space programs and planetarium

CHABOT Space and Science Center

VERIFY: Resources

NASA

The Catalina Sky Survey

 

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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