Much concern has lately been evinced in relation to an end-of-world scenario, circulating widely on the internet. It is yet another one of those doomsday prophecies that keep propagating on social media but never actually happen.
The scenario goes that a huge asteroid will smash into Earth sometime between September 15th and September 28th (probably the 24th) of this year leading to a 300 feet tsunami and an earthquake of “magnitude 12”, wreaking havoc upon countries all around the world, and killing tens of millions of lives.
But, as often is the case with many of these viral posts on the internet, it is absolute nonsense brought about by superstitious drivel. According to NASA, the chances of a potentially hazardous object impacting Earth within the next hundred years is 0.01 percent.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory closely tracks objects, asteroids, and near-earth objects in general. It maintains a highly-automated collision software program (SENTRY) and scans the most current asteroid catalog and their orbits for any potential impactors. No object is currently on collision course with Earth.
Asteroids approach Earth all the time. NASA’s close approach tables can be found here. None of the close approach objects in September pose any threats. Consulting those tables, the only object flying by us on the 24th of September is 2012 TT5, a 170-270 metre-wide rock, at about 0.0553 Astronomical Units. That means it will be flying by us 8.3 million kilometres away! That is about 23 times the distance from us and the moon.
A lunar eclipse which is set to happen on September 28th has also been unfortunately linked to this scenario. Claims by superstitious tinfoil-hat sporting scare nutters purport that this lunar eclipse (the “blood moon”) is a harbinger of some calamitous fate that would befall Earth. Lunar eclipses happen all the time but this one has particularly piqued the concerns of the metallic head-ware scare mongers because it is the fourth eclipse to occur (where the four eclipses are spaced 6 months apart), hence the fears. Apparently, it is purported that four such blood moons constitute a tetrad, a sign from God. The last tetrad occurred in 2003-2004. Nothing happened. We are still here.
I am unsure of the source of the September doomsday prophecy. But it was probably started by some self-proclaimed prophet and a Reverand by the name of Efrain Rodriguez, who has a large following on social media. He has claimed: “God showed me a large rock, an Asteroid, entering the airspace of the town of Arecibo in Puerto Rico, and exiting Mayagüez, heading to the ocean. This will be at 2 a.m. This rock will be making impact in the sea between the island of Mona and Mayagüez. It will hit an active earthquake fault found in that area of the Caribbean, causing a very strong 12 point earthquake that has never been seen. 12 degrees means the Presence of God on the Earth.” I wonder what kind of hallucinogen he was on. He has even written to NASA to warn them. But, he has so far refrained from ascribing an exact date, claiming that “only the Lord knows the date of the rapture.”
The conspiracy theorists have of course been accusing NASA of a cover-up. I cannot possibly think of any way to cover up an asteroid on collision course with Earth. It would of course be visible to astronomers worldwide. So, a cover-up would be impossible. And, nothing is out there.
I believe that such false doomsday claims have to always be addressed because they can be especially problematic to people with anxiety disorders. They are perhaps a reminder to always question the veracity of viral images, tweets, and posts on social media and to always employ one’s fact-checking radar when reading potential internet humbug.
Featured image retrieved from: visualphotos.com