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January 2019 Killer Asteroid Story Will End This Month — Or Will It?

How much do conspiracy theorists mistrust, doubt and even hate NASA? A warning issued in 2002 that a killer asteroid had a remote chance of hitting the Earth in early 2019 was quickly retracted, yet suspicions of a cover-up appeared immediately and never went away. In fact, they seem to be growing because, duh, it’s January 2019! Are we all gonna die, breath a sigh of relief or something in-between?

On July 9, 2002, MIT astronomers discovered a 2 km (1.2 mile) wide asteroid-ish space rock that was on an odd 42-degree tilted orbit around the Sun. Named 2002 NT7, the rock was tracked to make a 2.29 year out-of-sync trip around the solar system. That didn’t concern them as much as a simulation they ran a week after its discovery which showed that 2002 NT7 was possibly on a collision course with Earth in February 2019, making it the first near-Earth object to be assigned a positive rating on not just one but two impact scales both the Torino Scale and the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale, with the approximate date for a low-but-not-no possibly impact on February 1, 2019.

Then things got scary. On July 25, 2002, the low probability of a February 2019 impact was raised to 1-in-250,000. That’s more likely than the odds of getting hit by lightning, getting bitten by a shark, getting injured on an amusement park ride or winning a major lottery, which all happen a few times every year. At that point, some people started to panic.

“Asteroid Could Wipe Out a Continent in 2019”

That was just one of the headlines which caused the scientists to run the simulation again (and probably again and again) until they got a better number. On August 1, 2002, it was announced that there was no chance that 2002 NT7 would hit Earth at any time in 2019 nor for the next 100 years, and the asteroid was removed from the Sentry Risk Table. NASA attributed the new probability to new data and promptly forgot about it. Conspiracy theorists attributed it to a cover-up and never forgot.

Which brings us to 2019, when we’ll finally find out who is right. NASA suspiciously did some new calculations, changing the date 2002 NT7 would be closest to Earth to January 13, 2019, and the distance to .4 AU (61,010,000 km; 37,910,000 mi) from us or farther away than Mars.

“NASA killer asteroid ‘COVER UP’ as 60,000mph space rock ‘due to hit Earth NEXT MONTH’”

That new prediction did nothing to kill the conspiracy theorists, as this Daily Star headline attests. Are they right? A good way to find out is to ask them what they’re plans are for Super Bowl Sunday on February 3rd.

If we’re still here on January 14th, get ready to read this story again in 2021 … you know those NASA cover-up conspiracy theorists don’t give up THAT easily.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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