Will an Asteroid Threaten Earth on Christmas Eve?
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.