An asteroid is not going to destroy Earth in September.
Okay, okay, let’s go into a bit more detail. Recently on the Internet, several stories have been circulating that, between September 15 and 28 this year, an asteroid or comet four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide will hit Puerto Rico, destroying much of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. and Mexico, and also Central and South America. Sounds scary, right?
The theory seems to have originated from Reverend Efrain Rodriguez, who “sent a letter” to NASA in 2010 warning of an asteroid impact in 2015. Largely ignored at the time, several blogs and videos have now picked up on the claim and reported it as fact.
The problem? No such asteroid or comet exists. We know this thanks to NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. This is able to track all Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) of a reasonable size. We know of many other PHAs, some that will come close to Earth (but not impact) in the next 100 years, but there is simply no significant object that will hit our planet any time soon, especially not next month.
The story has since gone viral, so much so that NASA has issued a rare statement confirming that, no, Armageddon is not around the corner, something the agency is normally loathe to do. "There is no scientific basis – not one shred of evidence – that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's NEO office, in the statement. "If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now.”
The threat of asteroids and comets to Earth, though, is actually very real. Many scientists have been clamoring for a greater Earth defense and detection system, to make sure we can find and destroy any potentially world-ending asteroids in future. Indeed, some small rocks, like the Chelyabinsk meteor in February 2013, do manage to slip under the radar. But something four kilometers wide is simply too big not to be seen, and there's nothing in the immediate future that poses a threat. NASA rates the chance of a sizeable asteroid hitting Earth in the next 100 years at 0.01%.
So, take off your tin foil hat and step out of your asteroid-proof bunker. Everything is going to be alright. Unless… Oh my! What’s that? It’s coming right this wa-