Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Chicken Little report: A 100-foot diameter newly discovered asteroid will zip past the Earth inside the Moon’s orbit today at 4:07 pm Eastern.
The asteroid, dubbed 2014 DX 110, is about 100 feet in diameter and is set to come within 216,000 miles of Earth — a close shave by astronomical standards, considering our Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of about 238,900 miles.
While an object that size may not seem imposing, if it were to strike the Earth, it would release a devastating amount of energy greater than a nuclear weapon. The infamous asteroid that exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, on June 30, 1908, has been estimated to be about 30 meters to 60 meters — 100 feet to 200 feet — in diameter.
While it is true that the impact would be significant, this news report does the typical fear-mongering to make the story seem interesting. The problem, however, is that the detection of these fly-bys is becoming more frequent. The number of asteroids isn’t changing, but our ability to spot them is, and with more frequent discoveries comes more frequent news stories like this. I fear that such stories — fueled by press releases from various astronomy organizations — are going to begin to sound like a kid “crying wolf” to the general public. The threat from an asteroid impact is real, even if most asteroids miss us. Desensitizing the public to the threat is not a good thing.