The world is not going to end on April 29. NASA tells us why we shouldn't panic

While the world is grappling with coronavirus which has forced countries into a lockdown, multiple reports quoting the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) alerting the world about a celestial object that would fly 'very close' to earth in a few weeks is causing another panic among netizens across the world.

The news first appeared on United Kingdom news platform Daily Express with the headline "Asteroid warning: NASA tracks a 4KM asteroid approach – Could end civilisation if it hits", it didn't take long before it went viral like wildfire, other mushroom blogs and internet users started spreading and sharing the report which is already creating confusion.

Nigeria already has a lot to worry about and coronavirus sits atop the list. Circulating a false report about the world coming to an end in a few weeks will only create more tension among citizens already tensed by the spread of COVID-19. The country presently has 22 confirmed cases.

Many social media users across the world have become jittery over the viral report, adding NASA to it gave it some level of credibility as many were quick to believe that the US agency truly announced that a huge asteroid (a near-earth object) is approaching the earth and would hit planet earth on April 29 while its devastating effect would mark the end of the world.

While it is true that the asteroid, a hefty space rock with an estimated diameter of 1.1 to 2.5 miles (1.8 to 4.1 kilometers), would fly past earth, reports on social media by some alarmists and other blogs causing panic by suggesting that the world would come to an end when the object hits earth on April 29 is false. NASA never announced that Earth is in danger of being hit by an asteroid.

According to NASA, an asteroid, officially called 52768 (1998 OR2), is expected to fly past Earth on April 29, 2020 around 10:56 am. It won't fly by Earth again until May 18, 2031, and it will be farther away, passing about 12 million miles (19 million km) from our planet.

What a near-Earth object means:

According to information on NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) website:

About one hundred tons of interplanetary material drifts down to the Earth's surface on a daily basis. Most of the smallest interplanetary particles that reach the Earth's surface are the tiny dust particles that are released by comets as their ices vaporize in the solar neighborhood. The vast majority of the larger interplanetary material that reaches the Earth's surface originates as the collision fragments of asteroids that have run into one another some eons ago. Rocky or iron asteroids larger than about 100 meters would be expected to reach the Earth's surface in an average interval of about 10,000 years, and cause local disasters or produce the tidal waves that can inundate low lying coastal areas.

On its website, NASA's CNEOS, lists 24 of such near-Earth objects scheduled to pass by planet earth between Thursday March 19 and Wednesday April 29. Three passed by last Thursday March 19, one on Friday, while another three passed on Saturday at different times, and the world did not come to an end.

The asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2) causing panic on the internet was discovered in 1998, since then, NASA said it has been monitoring its trajectory speed and distance and it is truly expected to pass by on April 29 but it won't bring the world to an end.

While it is also false that it will hit Earth, NASA said the asteroid is expected to safely pass by earth at a distance of about 16.36 LD (lunar distance), approximately four million miles/6.2 million km.

This asteroid, with an estimated diameter of 1.8 km to 4.1 km, will fly past Earth at an estimated speed of around 20,000 miles per hour. It means it will come no closer than about 16 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.

The CNEOS also called for calm in a tweet clarifying the viral report. It tweeted:

"On April 29, asteroid 1998 OR2 will safely pass Earth by 3.9 million miles/6.2 million km. A @Daily_Express article implying there is a "warning" about this asteroid is false."

Panic over a harmless asteroid should be the least among challenges confronting the world right now from coronavirus which has killed over 10,000 people across the world to other natural disasters like the locust swarms in East Africa and the Middle East posing huge threat to food insecurity.

 

 

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