On April 13 2029, an asteroid is due to cruise harmlessly past Earth, about 19,000 miles away from the planet's surface – but what if it was closer, and in danger of smashing into us? That's the question space agencies around the world are asking this week, with an exercise simulating an imminent strike.
Participants don't know how the exercise will develop from one day to the next, and have to make plans based on the information they're given by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which is managing the event.
At the beginning of the scenario, the International Asteroid Warning Network identified an asteroid that initially looked harmless. However, it was later predicted to have a one percent chance of hitting the Earth in 2027 – enough to kick emergency plans into action.
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Things have become more dire as the situation progressed, and the chance of a hit now stands at 10% based on extra information gathered from telescopes around the world.
As The Verge reports, it's an exercise that NASA and others perform each year so scientists, space agencies and civil protection organizations are prepared for the worst.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is publishing daily reports, and you can keep track of the exercise live on the ESA Operations Twitter feed. None of the plans so far involve Bruce Willis and a nuclear bomb, but ESA has put together a suitably dramatic trailer that you can watch below.
It’s 2028, and ESA has been carefully monitoring a worrying situation: an enormous asteroid is en route to strike Earth, although the exact point of impact is not yet clear... To find out what happens next in this #FICTIONALEVENT, follow @esaoperations #PlanetaryDefense pic.twitter.com/K6OxzOOr4RApril 29, 2019