A giant space rock with the best known chance of hitting our planet and doing major damage should now be considered less of an existential threat.
The stony monster is two-thirds of a mile (1.1 kilometers) across and has a chance of impacting Earth several centuries from now — on March 16, 2880, to be exact.
As its name suggests, the asteroid was originally discovered in 1950 but then it wasn’t spotted again for over half a century. In 2001 astronomers observed it again and were able to collect high-precision radar measurements. This data allowed them to predict an initial impact probability of one-in-300.
For a little context, the ESA maintains a “risk list” of over 1,350 of the near earth objects with a chance of impacting our planet. There are only a handful with a higher impact probability than one-in-300, and all of these likely have a diameter of less than ten meters. In other words, 1950 DA is over 100 times larger than any asteroid that’s more likely to hit the planet.
So this is a big boy worth keeping an eye on. In fact, the NEOCC typically doesn’t concern itself with listing asteroids with a risk of impacting Earth more than a century out, but it made an exception for 1950 DA and put it on its own special risk list.
Scientists have continued to add and crunch data on 1950 DA to refine the prediction over the last two decades. In 2015, the impact probability was reduced to one-in-8,000.
And on Tuesday, the NEOCC conducted a new risk assessment based on all available data up until December 2021.
“The resulting estimated impact probability in 2880 is approximately 1-in-50,000,” the ESA writes in a statement.
Our descendants, if they’re still on Earth, will be able to sleep a little easier at night eight centuries from now, it seems.
“There is no reason for concern over 1950 DA,” reads the NASA Center for Near Earth Object Studies page on the asteroid. “The most likely result will be that St. Patrick’s Day parades in 2880 will be a little more festive than usual as 1950 DA recedes into the distance, having passed Earth by.”