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A Missing Asteroid Could Hit the Earth in 2024

It probably won't, though.

By Cassidy Ward

Moving across the country can feel like the end of the world, but for one fictional family in the 2021 disaster film Asteroid (streaming now on Peacock), the association was a little more literal. When the three of them (Spencer, Lynn, and Zoe) leave their hectic life in the big city for a simpler one in the country, they find themselves in the center of a looming asteroid impact. If you’re planning a big move in late 2024, there’s a small chance you might find yourself in a similar situation.

The “Lost” Asteroid 2007 FT3 Could Strike the Earth Later This Year

The asteroid 2007 FT3 was first discovered in 2007 (hence its designation) before astronomers lost sight of it. Scientists were able to investigate the space rock for 1.2 days before it slipped through their grasp and disappeared into deep space. Over the last several years, astronomers have attempted to predict its orbital path and find it again, without success.

RELATED: NASA Reveals First Details of OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample

That brief observation period wasn’t enough for scientists to clock 2007 FT3’s specific orbital path enough to keep an eye on it long-term. That means we have pretty wide error bars around where 2007 FT3 might be in the sky. Most of its possible flight paths keep it at a safe distance from Earth, but some of them send it careening into our planet several months or years from now.

Based on the information we currently have, 2007 FT3 is fourth on NASA's list of potential public enemies. The only asteroids more likely to hit home are 1950 DA, ,1979 XB, and Bennu, which was recently visited by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission.

In short, we know to a high degree of certainty where the Earth will be at any given time, but we don’t know where the asteroid will be. So, astronomers run models into the future based on all of the possible asteroid orbital paths, and some of those paths put 2007 FT3 in the same place in space as the Earth on October 3, 2024. Those wide orbital error margins are why we can know when it might hit, but not if it will hit. In fact, NASA has identified dozens of potential impact times over the next several decades. October 3 is only the first. Pending any additional observations, the question is one of probability.

A diagram showing our solar system and the asteroids that surround the Earth

NASA estimates the likelihood of a collision this October at somewhere around one in 11.5 million, according to MSN. One other potential impact date of note is March of 2030, when the odds will be slightly higher (roughly one in 10 million) that 2007 FT3 will strike.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About NASA's "Asteroid Autumn"

There’s probably no need to start stocking up for the end times just yet. While the asteroid is high on the list of potential impactors, astronomers aren’t very worried about it. Even the asteroids with the highest odds of hitting us very probably won’t. One NASA spokesperson told The Standard, “there are no known asteroid impact threats to the Earth at any time in the next century.”

If 2007 FT3 does thread the needle and smash into the Earth, it won’t cause enough devastation to trigger our extinction, but it would be a very bad day. It's probably nothing to worry about though.

Experience a personal apocalypse in Asteroid, streaming now on Peacock.

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