Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 29 March 2023

NASA tracking asteroid

Source: By The Indian Express

NASA announced that it is currently tracking an asteroid called 2023 DW that poses a small threat of crashing into our planet on 14 February 2046.

What is the asteroid 2023 DW?

According to NASA’s Asteroid Watch2023 DW is an asteroid that has an estimated diameter of about 49.29 metres and, at the time of writing, is at a distance of about 0.12 astronomical units (AU) from Earth. An astronomical unit is the average distance between the centre of the Earth and the centre of the Sun.

Relative to the Sun, the asteroid is travelling at the speed of about 24.64 kilometres per second. 2023 DW takes about 271 days to complete one orbit around the Sun. At its perihelion, or closest point to the Sun, it could come within 0.49 AU of the star at the centre of our planetary system. Of course, these figures could change based on more observations of the near-Earth object.

Will the asteroid 2023 DW crash into Earth?

Currently, all that can be said is that we can’t really be sure even though the chances are “extremely unlikely.” To quote NASA Asteroid Watch’s Twitter account, “Often when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits years into the future.”

At the time of writing, the asteroid 2023 DW is at the top of the European Space Agency’s “Risk List,” which catalogues all objects that make a close approach to Earth and pose the highest risk of impact.

According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid currently registers at level 1 on the Torino scale, which means that it is “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.

Based on current calculations, the chances of collision are extremely unlikely, and therefore, there should be no cause for public attention or public concern. Also, there is a good chance that new telescopic observations will let scientists reassign it as a level 0 threat. So yes, the chances of the asteroid actually crashing into Earth are pretty low at this point.

How can we prevent 2023 DW from crashing into Earth?

What if the asteroid were actually on a collision course with Earth? What do we do? Sending Bruce Willis and a team of oil drillers to break up the asteroid is no longer an option.

Well, not too long ago, the only asteroid mitigation strategies that we could come up with were nothing more than theory. But all that changed in October last year when NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos, successfully altering its path and demonstrating humanity’s first asteroid mitigation strategy.

So how would this “kinetic impactor” method of asteroid mitigation work if we needed to use it on the asteroid 2023 DW? Essentially, we would crash a small spacecraft into the asteroid, slightly altering its path.

In a press conference attended by ahead of DART’s collision with Dimorphos, NASA officials described this as “crashing a golf cart into the great pyramid.” While that may not sound very effective, the spacecraft only has to delay or hasten the asteroid by a few minutes.

Since the Earth, on average, moves at the mind-boggling speed of around 30 kilometres per second, it would not be at the point in its orbit where the asteroid’s path intersects with it.