A gigantic mile-wide asteroid could be doomed to hit our planet, scientists have warned.
A team of researchers has traced the origins of a fireball that burned brightly as it soared over Kyoto, Japan, in April 2017.
It’s now believed to have originated from a space rock called 2003 YT1 that’s more than a mile wide and has its own moon.
Scientists have produced a new estimate of the probability of this rock hitting us within the next one million years, saying this disaster has a 6% chance of coming to pass.
The rock is not as larger as the object that killed the dinosaurs, which is believed to have been between seven and 50 miles in diameter.
Previous estimates suggested it has a 6% chance of hitting Earth at some point in the next 10 million years.
It’s likely to be disintegrating thanks to a process called the YORP effect which causes it to rotate in space as it’s heated by the sun.
‘The potential break-up of the rock could be dangerous to life on Earth,’ said Toshihiro Kasuga, visiting scientist at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and Kyoto Sangyo University.
‘The parent body 2003 YT1 could break up, and those resulting asteroids could hit the Earth in the next 10 million years or so.’
Scientists found that the space rock was being warmed by the sun, causing it to spin and potentially forcing it to ‘physically break’ in smaller pieces.
‘The released particles can enter Earth’s atmosphere and appear as fireballs, which is exactly what happened in 2017,’ Kasuga added.
Luckily, the Kyoto fireball was just a few centimetres in size and burned up before it hit the surface.
‘The 2017 fireball and its parent asteroid gave us a behind-the-scenes look at meteors,’ continued Kasuga.
‘Next, we plan to further research predictions for potentially hazardous objects approaching the Earth. Meteor science can be a powerful asset for taking advanced steps towards planetary defence.’
Astronomers first revealed that the likely parent of the Kyoto fireball was the binary near-Earth asteroid (164121) 2003 YT1 in a paper published last year
If humanity was still around to witness a cataclysmic impact from this apocalypse asteroid, we could face extinction or, at the very least, endure death and carnage on a global scale.
The impact would cause a fireball which would wipe out everything within a radius of hundreds of miles, throwing so much dust into the air that crops would fail around the world and mass starvation would threaten our species’ future.
Writing about an impact from a similarly sized object in a post on Quora, mathematician and space expert Robert Walker wrote: ‘it would produce a crater 46 kilometres in diameter.
‘The firestorm including debris thrown up and landing and starting up new fires would extend to 600 km from the impact point.
‘There would be regional earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunami (if it hit the sea). Skies darker than the darkest cloud cover from the dust thrown up into the upper atmosphere, global temperature drops 8 degrees celsius for a week and moderate global effects for months. No summer that year.
‘Plant growth is disrupted for years and there are some global crop failures and some regional extinctions. We get hit by one of these roughly every half million years on average.’