In 2014, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory spotted a kilometer-wide asteroid which it named 2014 JO25. After three years of monitoring the asteroid, NASA has now announced that it will make its closest trip past the Earth this month:
This asteroid will approach within 4.6 lunar distances (0.0118 au) on 2017 April 19 when it will be among the strongest asteroid radar targets of the year. The 2017 encounter is the closest by this asteroid for at least the last 400 years. There are no known future encounters by 2014 JO25 as close as the one in 2017 through 2500.
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, the official worldwide organization which tracks objects such as asteroids and comets, has labeled 2014 JO25 a “potentially hazardous asteroid.”
According to NASA, this isn’t necessarily news for alarm, as this definition applies to all objects which pass within a certain distance of Earth:
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth. [...] This “potential'' to make close Earth approaches does not mean a PHA will impact the Earth. It only means there is a possibility for such a threat.
Were an asteroid the size of 2014 J025 to impact Earth, tens of millions of lives would likely be killed by the shockwave or impact itself. Naturally, tabloids are proclaiming that the end is nigh. As frightening as they are, however, these types of asteroid fly-bys are pretty common and usually result in nothing more than some interesting photographs.
With so much government attention being paid to asteroid impact preparedness lately, though, it’s gotta make you wonder: do they know something we don’t? Maybe. Maybe 2014 JO25 is it. This could be the one. Perhaps the Universe has heard the many cries of despair and desperation coming from our planet lately and has decided to mercifully put us out of our social-media-fueled misery. Let’s hope so. I don’t think I can handle another election cycle.