Asteroid 1950 DA: Will a Huge Spinning Asteroid ‘Wipe out life on Earth in 2880’?

 An asteroid, dubbed Asteroid 1950 DA, has a one in 300 chance of hitting the Earth in 2880, according to reports, but they appear somewhat misguided.

The Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported that the asteroid could possibly strike our planet on March 16, 2880.

However, scientists have said there should be no concern because the risk of the asteroid actually hitting the planet is low.

The discovery of the asteroid was made by researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The team discovered that the asteroid is spinning quickly, holding the asteroid together, known as the van der Waals force.

Ben Rozitis, a postdoctoral researcher, told the Mail:  “We found that 1950 DA is rotating faster than the breakup limit for its density.”

He added: “‘So if just gravity were holding this rubble pile together, as is generally assumed, it would fly apart. Therefore, interparticle cohesive forces must be holding it together.”

Their findings were published in the journal Nature. 

But the threats of the asteroid striking the planet appear to be overblown by the media, writes Slate’s Phil Plait.

“Can it impact the Earth? Yes, kind of. Right now, the orbit of the asteroid doesn’t bring it close enough to hit us. But there are forces acting on asteroids over time that subtly change their orbits; one of them is called the YORP effect, a weak force that arises due to the way the asteroid spins and radiates away heat. The infrared photons it emits when it’s warm carry away a teeny tiny bit of momentum, and they act pretty much like an incredibly low-thrust rocket. Over many years, this can change both the rotation of the asteroid as well as the shape of its orbit,” he writes.

He adds that predicting the position of the asteroid over the coming years will be difficult.

Plait also notes that the one in 300 probability is outdated, saying that scientists recently discovered “that the probability of an impact in 2880 is about 2.48 x 10-4, which is about 1 in 4,000. That’s really small.”