Looks like that ‘Election Day asteroid’ didn’t smack us after all

Artist’s concept of a near-earth asteroid.


NASA/JPL-CalTech

Oreo stashed its cookies in an asteroid-proof doomsday vault for nothing. 

There’s been much ado about tiny asteroid 2018 VP1 and how its path was going to bring it super close to Earth on Nov. 2, the day before the contentious US election. That timing earned it the not-quite-accurate nickname “Election Day asteroid.”

It appears the asteroid didn’t hang around long enough to leave a mark on the night sky. According to current data and observations, it passed by and went on its merry way.

Planetary astronomer Michael Busch dropped an update on Twitter on Monday. “There was apparently nothing on the infrasound and atmospheric flash monitors today,” Busch wrote. “2018 VP1 has, as expected, flown past Earth.”

The asteroid had a mere 0.41% chance of impacting Earth’s atmosphere. The dainty size of the asteroid meant it was no threat. In an Oct. 30 update on the asteroid’s trajectory, Asteroid Institute astrodynamicist Allan Posner said it would look like “a very nice shooting star in the sky” if it did happen to burn up. 

With no reports of a fireball, initial indications seem to suggest 2018 VP1 will live to see another day. 

Earth was never in danger from the asteroid, but its scheduled visit to our neighborhood fit in with the ongoing weirdness of a year filled with political strife and pandemic stress. It seems 2018 VP1 had the good sense to nope out of here from a safe distance away.

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