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 Will an Asteroid Threaten Earth on Christmas Eve?

Will an Asteroid Threaten Earth on Christmas Eve?

by Elizabeth Howell for Space.com

There is no substance to multiple media reports that an asteroid passing by Earth on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) will cause earthquakes on the planet, according to asteroid experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

At its closest approach on Christmas Eve, asteroid 2003 SD220 will be about 6.6 million miles (10.6 million kilometers) from Earth — about 27 times farther than the moon is from Earth. The asteroid will reach its closest point at 8:08 a.m. EST (1300 p.m. GMT) and will not be visible to the naked eye.

Despite its small size (only about 1.24 miles, or 2 kilometers wide) and its vast distance from Earth, certain articles are claiming that the asteroid will pose a threat to the planet. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Near Earth Object (NEO) Office refuted many of these articles individually via its Twitter account, @AsteroidWatch.

"That article is filled with fake and false information. There is no danger from asteroid 2003 SD220," the NEO tweeted in response to a Twitter user who posted an article on an Italian website that claimed NASA had called the asteroid a threat to Earth.

"I wouldn't say it's in 'the news' exactly," @AsteroidWatch tweeted to someone else. "The false stories are in the tabloids. Important difference."

The claims about the asteroid's danger also sparked a blog post from noted astronomer Phil Plait, who writes the Bad Astronomy blog on Slate.

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