|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Jan 28, 2017 07:48 PM EST|
(Photo : NASA) The object 2016 WF9 that will near miss the Earth in Feb. 2017 (NASA illustration).
A dark object discovered only in November 2016 by NASA is going to miss the Earth by 51 million kilometers in February, but conspiracy theorists insist NASA is lying and the asteroid will smash into our planet.
The end of the world for these whacky weirdoes will take place on Feb. 16.
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That's when a Near Earth Object (NEO) object that NASA calls 2016 WF9 begins to swing into an orbit just inside that of Earth's. NASA, however, says 2016 WF9 will near miss the Earth on Feb. 25.
NASA says 2016 WF9 might either be an asteroid or a comet, and isn't certain because images of the object are too dark tfor it to be sure.
2016 WF9 was discovered by NASA's NEOWISE mission. NEOWISE is the asteroid-and-comet-hunting portion of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope launched in December 2009.
Astronomers poring over NEOWISE data know 2016 WF9 is quite large: 0.5 to 1 kilometer across. NASA doesn't consider the object a short-term threat to the Earth.
But 2016 WF9 is also quite dark, and reflects only a few percent of the light that hits its surface. This object resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet.
"2016 WF9 could have cometary origins," said Deputy Principal Investigator James "Gerbs" Bauer at JPL.
"This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one. Perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface."
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) absorb most of the light that falls on them and re-emit that energy at infrared wavelengths. This enables NEOWISE's infrared detectors to study both dark and light-colored NEOs with nearly equal clarity and sensitivity.
More ominously, however, 2016 WF9 belongs to the most dangerous class of objects in near Earth orbit. 2016 WF9 is an "Apollo asteroid," which is a group of Earth crossing asteroids that present the greatest danger to the Earth.
NASA has identified 1,472 Apollo asteroids large enough, and that might get close enough to Earth to be classified as potentially hazardous asteroids.
One conspiracy theorist insists 2016 WF9 will smash into Earth on February 16 and trigger a mega-tsunami. This same man claims 2016 WF9 is part of the system of Nibiru, a fictitious outer planet, which will destroy the Earth in a stupendous collision this October.
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