A dangerous asteroid came relatively close to Earth last month, in an incident NASA calls a "reality check." The asteroid, named 2013 TV135, is scheduled to make another pass in about 20 years, though NASA says the possibility of a collision is very slim.
NASA says the Ukranian-discovered 2013 TV135 has a 1 in 63,000 chance of actually hitting Earth, though its size, roughly that of 4 footballs fields, could have the destructive power of a couple of thousand hydrogen bombs.
Though again, NASA points out that when 2013 TV135 passes by in 2032, they are 99.998% sure that there won't be a catastrophe. Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's NEO Program, states, "This is a relatively new discovery. With more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future."
NASA has urged amateur astronomers to help keep tabs on the 10,000-plus near-Earth objects that pass by our planet for a while now. 2013 TV135 was discovered on October 8, but as NASA was closed during the government shutdown, they've had to play catch-up in labeling the threat level of the asteroid. At present, 2013 TV135 has a hazard rating of 1, out of 10, on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale.
According to the scale, a "1" denotes a "routine discovery in which a pass near 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."
A "10" on the Torino Scale denotes a "collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean. Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often." Essentially, it's time to call Bruce Willis, when a "10" is imminent.
Luckily, the vast majority of NEO's (near-earth objects) discovered fall under a "0" rating, and are harmless.
2013 TV135 got within 4.2 million miles of Earth on September 16, roughly 15 times further away than the moon. This distance pales in comparison to when an asteroid called 2012 DA14 came within 17,200 of Earth, on February 15. That asteroid was roughly 150 feet wide, and slipped below the moon's orbit.
At roughly 1,300 feet across, 2013 TV135 isn't exactly a global-killer, but would cause significant damage to the planet. NASA says, "We believe anything larger than one to two kilometers (about 0.6 to 1.2 miles) could have worldwide effects." NASA adds that near asteroid passes are very common, and that about 100 tons of space debris hit Earth daily. One of the largest meteorites ever was just discovered in Russia.
Though it seems Earth is safe for now, there is such a thing as a world-ending asteroid - Though they are exceedingly rare, occurring at least once every 100,000 years. NASA figures we have time to sort out our technology to take care of that sort of event, when it arises.
Here's the latest Batman, doing an ugly-cry, while saving Earth from a doomsday asteroid in 1998's "Armageddon"
Image via NASA.