Set a date: On May 6, 2022, Earth could face its destruction by the huge asteroid that ravages the continent.
Yes, I know your eyes are turning – another day, another asteroid killer. You're probably thinking, "This is just paranoid riffraff."
Well … that is, really. However, there is a dangerous lump of space rock to us, and there is a (ridiculously) small chance that it can surround our planet.
Let me introduce you to JF1. He is noisy, dangerous and you best believe he is coming.
NASA first discovered the asteroid in 2009. Over the past decade, the space agency's automated asteroid viewing system – known as Sentiri – has been tasked with keeping an eye on it.
It is labeled as an "object near Earth" (NEO), which means it is in orbit of the Sun and is a "threat" to our planet.
A NASA spokesman explained:
Some asteroids and comets follow the orbital paths that bring them closer to the Sun and therefore the Earth than usual. If the comet or asteroid approach reaches 1.3 solar astronomical units, we call it an object near Earth.
An astronomical unit is about 93 million miles – so it's not very close. What's scary is how big it is – experts report that JF1 measures about 130 meters in diameter, adding that it could be the same size as the Great Giza Pyramid in Egypt.
Had JF1 landed, it would have collided with 230 kilotons of TNT. To put this in context, the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb exploded with 15 kilotons of TNT.
The White House's 2018 report on the dangers of asteroid impact is explained:
Larger NEOs larger than 140 meters could cause serious damage to entire regions or continents. Such objects will hit the Earth with a minimum energy of over 60 megatons of TNT, which is more than the most powerful nuclear device ever tested. Fortunately, these are much rarer and easier to detect and track than smaller NEOs.
NASA added that Sentiri "is constantly scanning the current catalog of asteroids for opportunities for future impact with Earth over the next 100 years." Another asteroid was announced for impact in 2880 (not writing).
Don't worry too much. NASA puts the JF1's chances of hitting us at 0.026%, so there's more than a 99% chance it won't. I suspect Paddy Power will allow me to set up an agent.