No, An Asteroid Isn't Going To Destroy The Earth In February 2017, Even If It Feels Like Doomsday Right Now
Since Jan. 20, maybe you've been feeling a little... off. Like the personification of a half-rotted pumpkin and his smooth-faced robotic butler were just inaugurated. Or maybe like there's a doomsday asteroid headed for Earth in February. But should you really be worrying about the latter? One self-proclaimed astronomer seems to think so (as do the ensuing tabloid headlines); allegedly an asteroid spotted by NASA last November is actually on a collision course with Earth and anticipated to strike on Feb. 16. You might want to hold off on blowing your savings and quitting your job in preparation for the end of the world, though; the claims are pretty unsubstantiated even for a conspiracy theory.
On Thursday, a piece appeared on the Daily Mail Online featuring a man who claims the aforementioned asteroid is hurtling straight for Earth after being ejected from the same solar system as Nibiru. (There's our first tip that this asteroid collision may not be what it seems; you might recognize Nibiru as the name of the giant, rogue planet that another doosmday theory states causes destruction on Earth every thousand years or so.) According to this man, Dyomin Damir Zakharovich, NASA already knows about the incoming asteroid, but has held off on telling the public for reasons unknown. If it hits Earth, Zakharovich warned, the asteroid could cause a tsunami or destroy cities, throwing off everyone's weekend plans. "We are all in peril," he said according to the Mail.
To be fair, the asteroid itself does exist. NASA's NEOWISE project spotted the object, named 2016 WF9, back in November. According to the organization, the asteroid's five-year orbit is akin to a "scenic tour of the solar system," from the sun to Jupiter and back again. Along the way, it swings inside Earth's orbit, which is presumably where the doomsday prediction is coming from. However, NASA gathered tons of data and assured the public that there's nothing to worry about. Even at its closest point, WF9 will be nearly 32 million miles away from our planet.
"The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future," reads a post dated Dec. 29, 2016 on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) website.
While it's not of apocalyptic interest, the asteroid does have some fascinating characteristics. According to NASA, WF9 is fairly large — about half a mile in diameter — and like a comet, it absorbs far more light than it reflects. "This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one," said JPL Deputy Principal Investigator James "Gerbs" Bauer. In fact, it might have originated as a comet back in the day.
Although we're less than a month into 2017, WF9 isn't actually the first doomsday prediction of the year. On Thursday, scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward by 30 seconds, so we're now two and a half minutes away from midnight, AKA the kind of catastrophe from which not even Bruce Willis can save us.
But the good news is that people have been predicting the end of times since, well, the dawn of time. Things might get a little hairy here on Earth at times, but there's no need to call in the space cavalry just yet.