Tag Archives: Phil Plait

Rumors of an asteroid impact in March 2014 are false.

no asteroid

No, Asteroid 2003 QQ47 Is NOT Going to Hit the Earth Next Week

By via slate.com

asteroid_250pxWell, it took three months, but we have our first notpocalypse of 2014!

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are spreading a story that a large asteroid named 2003 QQ47 might impact the Earth next week, specifically on March 21, 2014.

Let me be very clear right away: Nope. It won’t. This story is totally wrong! Well, the asteroid does exist, but it won’t hit us next week, and in fact can’t hit the Earth for at least a century. The truth is the asteroid will safely pass us on March 26 of this year, never getting closer than 19 million kilometers (nearly 12 million miles)—about 50 times farther away than the Moon!

[…]

I’m pretty sure what’s happening here is that a very old story has been recycled and is getting spread around without anyone doing any fact-checking. It’s all over Twitter and got picked up credulously by some bigger venues like the Daily Mail, which posted it with the typically understated title of “Asteroid hurtles toward Earth.” What follows after that is a breathless and almost entirely incorrect article about 2003 QQ47 that seems to simply rehash information from more than a decade ago. Seriously.*

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 10.08.13 PM_600px

For example, the Mail article says the asteroid is “newly discovered,” but in fact was first detected in 2003, 11 years ago! Hence its name, 2003 QQ47. It was found to be a near-Earth asteroid, or NEA, one that does sometimes get close to us. For a while after it was discovered it was thought to have a small chance of hitting Earth, with an impact probability in August 2014 of about 1 in 250,000. But by September 2003 new observations allowed a better trajectory to be calculated, and an impact in 2014 was ruled out. This happens quite often, where a new asteroid will have only a rough orbit calculated, and an impact has long but non-zero odds of hitting us. As more observations come in the chances of impact can actually increase briefly before dropping to zero.

This is what happened with QQ47 back in 2003. Got that? An impact in 2014, this year, was shown to be out of the question more than a decade ago and was even taken off JPL’s Sentry Risk page at that time, when it was found to have no potential Earth impacts for at least 100 years. We’re quite safe from this particular asteroid.

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Remember the 13th: Viral marketing silliness.

By via slate.com

[UPDATE (Oct. 4 at 21:00 UTC): WARNING: The “Remember the 13th” web page discussed below may be a scam, used by a company for phishing, a way to collect email addresses from people to sell to spammers. The site Android Malware Dump has the scoop. DO NOT ENTER YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AT the “Remember the 13th” web page! In fact, don’t even visit the site; I’ve removed all links to it to be safe. Thanks to my friend James Kerwin for letting me know.]

I’m getting a lot of tweets and emails asking me about a mysterious website that’s popped up in the last few days. Called “Remember the 13th”, it purports to have huge news from NASA it will reveal:

“The biggest discovery that will shake the Earth, it will never be the same again. [sic]”

Photo from "Remember the 13th" web page.

Photo from “Remember the 13th” web page.

A lot of folks are assuming this is an official NASA webpage, because it uses the NASA logo, and says, “NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet.” But note that nowhere on the page does it actually say it’s an official NASA page.

The one thing we can know for sure is that this is not an official NASA site. Being a government agency, NASA has to follow certain rules about websites, and this one has a few key indicators it’s not legit:

  • Official NASA sites are all part of the nasa.gov network, and this one isn’t.
  • WHOIS reports it’s registered through Panama. Hello. [UPDATE (Oct. 4 at 18:00 UTC): The actual ownership of the site is hidden using an anonymizing service, and it’s that service that reports the site is in Panama. But NASA would never use a service like this, so the argument stands.]
  • Official NASA sites don’t use the “.com” top-level domain.
  • All NASA sites are inaccessible right now due to the government shutdown.

Any one of those is enough to show this ain’t NASA.

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