Fact Check: NASA Did NOT Warn Two Asteroids Could Cause Atmospheric Explosion Over Earth This Week

Hoax Alert

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: NASA Did NOT Warn Two Asteroids Could Cause Atmospheric Explosion Over Earth This Week No Danger!

Did NASA warn that two asteroids could cause atmospheric explosion over Earth this week? No, that's not true: NASA did not issue a warning about these asteroids.

The claim originated in an article (archived here) published by The Mind Unleashed on March 18, 2020, under the title "NASA Warns Two Asteroids Could Cause Atmospheric Explosion Over Earth This Week". It opened:

(TMU) -- As if 2020 weren't overwhelming enough, in addition to the potential start of World War 3, the massive fires in Australia, the locust plague in the Middle East and Africa, and the novel coronavirus, we are now dealing with multiple asteroids hurtling towards Earth. One of the asteroids may even collide with Earth's atmosphere resulting in an atmospheric explosion tonight!

Two asteroids following Earth's intersecting orbit known as 2020 EF and 2020 DP4 are approaching the planet, and information collected by NASA indicates the space rocks are big enough to create violent explosions in the atmosphere if they come too close to the Earth.

Earlier this month Lead Stories reached out to Dr. Paul W. Chodas, the director of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CENOS) about another alarming asteroid article that had been published by Daily Express. We debunked that story here.

Chodas explained that the asteroids listed on CENOS' NEO Earth Close Approaches table, and mentioned by The Mind Unleashed, have zero chance of impacting Earth. CENOS keeps a seperate table called "Sentry: Earth Impact Monitoring", which lists asteroids they are watching that may have a slight chance of impacting Earth.

He said:

We have another webpage where we list all asteroids that DO have a chance of impacting Earth.

In other words, if an asteroid has a chance of impacting, it will be on this page, not the other.

Encounters on the Sentry page all have very small probabilities, most of those encounters are decades away, and 90% of the asteroids are so small that they would burn up in the atmosphere. Furthermore, as we track those objects, we expect that our prediction accuracy will improve to the point that we rule out most if not all of the potential impacts on this list.

The first of two asteroids mentioned in The Mind Unleashed headline is 2020 EF. An animated 3D model of the orbit of 2020 EF in our solar system can be found (here) When viewed as a two-dimensional rendering from certain angles, the model may give the impression that the asteroid was on a collision course with Earth. The asteroid's orbital path appears to intersect with Earth's in both space and time (shown on the left). But viewed from another angle, it is clear (shown on the right) the paths do not intersect.

2020EFAsteroidOrbit.jpg

Asteroid 2020 EF and Earth never came closer than a distance of 0.042 astronomical units. That's 3,902,979 miles (6,283,110 km). It did not result in a potentially blinding explosion in Earth's atmosphere on March 19, 2020. It didn't come close to Earth's atmosphere and NASA never issued a warning about it.

Regarding the other asteroid, 2020 DP4, The Mind Unleashed wrote:

2020 DP4 is coming our way and will cause a similar space spectacle this week on March 22nd at 2:36 p.m EST.

Just as with the 2020 EF asteroid, when 2020 DP4 comes closest to Earth, no "spectacle" will happen. NASA did not issue a warning about 2020 DP4, either. There is no chance for the asteroid to enter or burn up in Earth's Atmosphere. 2020 DP4 will pass from a closer, but still quite safe distance of 0.00903 astronomical units (that's 839,140 miles or 1,350,868 km). An animated model of 2020 DP4's orbit is here.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes themindunleashed.com as:

A website that says it aims "to disseminate and inspire out-of-the-box thinking," which has repeatedly published false claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

According to NewsGuard, the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about themindunleashed.com before. Here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

We wrote about themindunleashed.com before:

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Southeastern Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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