NASA’s scientists are tracking a newly discovered asteroid that has a chance of impacting Earth in 2046.
It’s a “very small” chance, according to NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office – about 1 in 600.
The space agency’s orbit analysts are keeping a close eye on the asteroid, which is about the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
The asteroid, named 2023 DW, is currently top of the European Space Agency’s “risk list”.
It was first spotted on 28 February.
It has the potential to hit Earth on 14 February 2046, or in the following years up until 2051.
NASA’s Asteroid Watch said its analysts will monitor 2023 DW and update predictions as more data comes in.
Astronomer Piero Sicoli, coordinator of the Italian Sormano Astronomical Observatory, laid out his calculations for the asteroid’s trajectory on Twitter, estimating there to be a 1 in 400 chance of the asteroid hitting Earth.
If it did, his calculations – based on what is currently known about the asteroid – suggest it could collide between the Indian Ocean and the east coast of the US. The red dots on the map indicate a possible impact zone.
However, Mr Sicoli said he mapped the possible collision as an exercise and said “surely this possibility will soon be ruled out”.
There are about 31,000 asteroids being tracked – up from around 9,500 in 2013.
Since the Chelyabinsk meteor struck Russia in 2013, injuring 1,100 people, the tracking programme has been stepped up.
NASA is working on the $1.2bn (£985m) Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor for launch in 2028, which will be the first space telescope specifically designed to hunt asteroids and comets that may be potential hazards to Earth.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) spacecraft is also in the works. During testing last year, it was deliberately crashed into an asteroid and successfully altered its orbit.