An asteroid was supposed to hit Earth in September — but astronomers can’t seem to find it

An asteroid that was supposed to hit Earth in September might not be on its way afterallMaxPexel


  • There was a one-in-7,000 chance that Asteroid 2006 QV89 would impact Earth on 9 September 2019.
  • Previous observations of the asteroid were not enough to figure out the asteroid's path, the scientists were unable to track QV89.
  • But, they do know where it would show up it it were on a collision course for Earth.
  • Using that information, the European Space Agency (ESA) used a ‘non-detection’ technique to rule out the possibility of the QV89 crashing into the Earth.
An asteroid which was expected to hit the Earth on 9 September 2019 might, not be on its way to Earth after all.

Lately, there have been a lot of close calls with asteroids as big as the Empire State Building and the Pyramid of Giza passing awfully close to Earth.

Even though these asteroids aren't big enough to wipe out the planet, they could still destroy whole cities if they were to plummet to the planet's surface. Scientists speculate the resulting impact would be greater than the impact of nuclear bombs.

Thankfully, the European Space Agency ( ESA) has determined that Asteroid 2006 QV89 is not on a ‘collision course’ to Earth because the asteroid isn’t where it’s supposed to be if it were heading here.

In fact, there’s no sign of the asteroid in that area of deep space, and it’s highly unlikely that it’s coming to Earth at all — though some scientists feel its only a matter of time

This is the first time that a ‘non-detection’ technique has been used to rule out an asteroid impact.

As long as it's not ‘there’

Since astronomers can’t determine the trajectory of the asteroid, they had no way of knowing where QV89 was. It’s hard to find something if you don’t know where to look.

So, instead, the ESA and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) too look into deep space. No just anywhere, but in a small area of the sky where the asteroid would be seen if it were on its way to Earth.

The region of the sky where Asteroid 2000 QV89 should have been if it were on a collision course for EarthESA

Thankfully, it was empty.

Why were we worried?

There was only a one-in-7,000 chance that the asteroid would impact Earth based on observations from its first visit on August 2006. After it was sighted, the asteroid stuck around for ten days before disappearing into space, never to be seen since.

Ten days is hardly enough time but anytime there is even a possibility, however remote, of an asteroid hitting Earth, observations and measurements are mandatory.

Using the observations, scientists were able to determine the asteroid's path, the potential risk, and rule out a collision all together. But this time around it was concluded that there was a 1-in-7000 chance that it would collide with Earth on 9 September 2019.

See also:
A Japanese spacecraft has landed on an asteroid after blasting it with a bullet. The mission will bring back rock samples to Earth.

There’s now proof that half of the world’s oceans came from outer space

A 1,100-foot-wide asteroid is on course to pass by Earth in a decade
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