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July 17, 2024

Lost Asteroid 2007 FT3 – A Cosmic False Alarm or Genuine Threat?

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Jan 3, 2024

Concerns have recently resurfaced regarding the trajectory of asteroid 2007 FT3 after the previously lost space rock was rediscovered by astronomers. While some alarmist reporting suggested a possible impact with Earth in 2024, NASA analysis indicates there is no credible threat from this asteroid for at least the next 100 years. However, the episode highlights the ongoing need for improved asteroid detection and tracking.

Background on Asteroid 2007 FT3

Asteroid 2007 FT3 was initially detected in March 2007 when it had a close approach with Earth, passing within 4.6 million miles at a size estimated up to 1,100 feet in diameter. After that, the asteroid was lost and tracking was discontinued in 2012 due to insufficient observation data on its orbital path (Source 1).

The asteroid recently reappeared on NASA’s tracking radar when it made another flyby of Earth in December 2022. Alarmist reporting suggested it could potentially impact Earth in 2024 (Source 2).

Key Timeline:

Date Event
March 2007 Asteroid 2007 FT3 discovered; close approach to Earth
2012 Asteroid lost/tracking discontinued due to lack of observation data
December 2022 Asteroid rediscovered upon new close approach with Earth

However, NASA analysis with additional observation data indicates there is no risk of the asteroid impacting Earth within the next 100 years or more (Source 3).

NASA Analysis & Risk Assessment

While early reports raised concerns, NASA confirms 2007 FT3 poses no credible threat to Earth for the foreseeable future (Source 4).

“We can affirmatively say that asteroid 2007 FT3 does not pose a threat to Earth for at least the next 100 years,” said Davide Farnocchia, manager of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

Additional tracking observations of 2007 FT3 from December 2022 have allowed astronomers to further refine its orbital trajectory and future motion. The updated data gives scientists high confidence the asteroid will have a safe flyby of Earth in 2024 and poses no direct impact risk.

2007 FT3 Updated Risk Analysis:

Year Minimum Orbit Distance from Earth

| 2024 | 5.4 million miles
| 2055 | 12.6 million miles away
| 2080 | 6.7 million miles away

(Source 5)

While asteroid 2007 FT3 itself presents no danger, its rediscovery highlights the ongoing need for improved detection and tracking of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) for planetary defense.

Ongoing Efforts in Planetary Defense

Despite the false alarm regarding 2007 FT3, experts caution that the threat of hazardous NEO impacts is still real even if small. NASA and other space organizations are involved in ongoing planetary defense operations to detect large asteroids and understand potential threats.

Some current and future efforts include:

  • Enhanced NEO detection – Improving current detection capabilities and surveys to find a large portion of hazardous object (Congress mandated goal of 90% of objects 140m+ in diameter)
  • Early Warning Systems – Mission concept studies for an infrared-based early warning system to provide more rapid tracking of newly discovered threats
  • Asteroid Redirection – Research into asteroid deflection technologies like kinetic impactors and gravity tractors that could redirect an asteroid’s path away from Earth
  • International cooperation – Increased data sharing and contingency planning between NASA, ESA, and other space agencies to coordinate an international response to future impact threats

(Source 6)

The Threat is Real, Even if Overblown in this Case

While 2007 FT3 is not a threat, experts say catastrophic asteroid impacts are still a low-probability but high consequence threat to our planet. The Chicxulub impactor that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago shows the risk remains very real even if events are rare.

Improved detection and tracking is needed to extend our early warning times. One study suggests 50% of impactors 140m in size or larger would go undiscovered with current capabilities, only being detected an average of 2 years before impact (Source 7). More monitoring capacity could extend this warning period to 5-10 years, improving our odds of being able to respond effectively.

“This example of asteroid 2007 FT3 shows that while the chances of a major asteroid impact are small, the threat is not zero so we must remain vigilant,” said Dr. Nancy Chabot, planetary scientist and coordinator for NASA’s NEO observations program. “Improved capabilities to find asteroids earlier gives us better odds of being able to do something to prevent a catastrophe.”

While 2007 FT3 provides a reminder that asteroid impacts are still an outside possibility needing attention, NASA has effectively ruled it out as a threat for at least the coming century. Its safe passing by Earth in 2024 will be just one of many reminders that space rocks continue hurtling daily overhead – the vast majority harmlessly, but with a small risk still lurking within the shadows.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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