Astronomers criticize the media excitement after the news that, according to initial calculations, the asteroid 2002 NT7 could come dangerously close to the earth
Every comet or asteroid that could come dangerously close to the Earth not only attracts media attention, but the threat is also exaggerated in order to increase the news value. This was also the case last week, when astronomers reported that asteroid 2002 NT7, with a remarkable diameter of two kilometers, was expected to impact on 1.2. come close to Earth in 2019, so that there was a certain probability of a collision.
However, the astronomers had also said that their calculation of the trajectory of the asteroid, which had been discovered only a short time before, was still very inaccurate and that further observations were needed to make a truly reliable prediction. Nevertheless Italian astronomers had given it for the first time a positive value on the so-called Palermo scale, with which the risk of an impact is indicated, and had classified it with 0.38. Scientists of the Nasa were already more cautious, gave it a negative value, but classified it nevertheless with 1 on the Turin scale, which means that one should observe the celestial body at least further closely (Will it be dangerous 2019?).
In fact, the last observations have shown that the asteroid crossing the solar system every 2.29 years will in all probability not be dangerous for the Earth in 2019. Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory reports today that the probability of a collision in 2019 can now be completely ruled out. Even now, one could not exclude the possibility that a risk for the 1. February 2060, but this, too, will probably quickly become clear through further observations. At JPL, the value on the Palermo scale has now been set to -1.00 and less.
Even before that, Yeoman had explained that even an impact probability of 1:250.000, as was amed a week ago, is no cause for concern at all. Moreover, the asteroid was observed only for a few days, which makes any calculation uncertain. However, the media always blows the whistle on the danger, while the all-clear is usually given shortly afterwards. After such events, astronomers had already decided not to go public with unverified calculations, but this is difficult even for scientists who know the resonance of such reports, even if they explicitly point out the precursory nature of the calculations.