Oct. 20, 2013 — -- Is the world ending in 2032? Not quite. Ukrainian scientists have discovered a massive asteroid named 2013 TV135 and have predicted that it will hit earth 19 years from now, but NASA experts who track this space junk say the odds are in against a strike.
The asteroid could raise new concerns in neighboring Russia, which has been hit twice in the last century by devastating asteroids and where scientists have not only been actively spotting and tracking them, but considering plans to deal with the potential threat from space.
In 2011, they predicted that the asteroid Apophis could strike the Earth on April 13, 2036.
"Our task is to consider various alternatives and develop scenarios and plans of action depending on the results of further observations of Apophis," Professor Leonid Sokolov of the St. Petersburg State University said told RIA Novosti at the time.
The 17-meter asteroid that hit in Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, sent out a blast equivalent to 440 kilotons and hit with no warning.
A potential strike by 2013 TV135 is not a threat to take lightly, but this 1,300-foot wide asteroid has a less than .0021 percent chance of hitting us, says NASA's Dr. Paul Abell.
"We've had nine days to study this, and I would say it has a one in 48,000 chance of hitting Earth, and as we gather more data on it, we believe it will eventually go down to zero," Abell told ABC News.
A hundred tons of space junk falls back to Earth every day, most of it so small it's rarely noticed. It's the big stuff that worries scientists.
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Abell says Russian scientists have good reason to be sensitive. The last big asteroid to hit Earth before Chelyabinsk was one that slammed into Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, devastating a thousand square miles of rural Siberia.
Stanford University's Scott Hubbard thinks we, as a planet, need to take the defense of Earth more seriously, though.
"If a very large asteroid hit, I am talking about something that is miles across, it would probably create the same kind of disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs," Hubbard said. "We are not talking about ending Earth, we are not talking about ending everything, all life on Earth, but I am pretty sure it would wipe out civilization, certainly civilization as we know it."
Finding those planet-ending asteroids is the challenge, one that NASA embraces for with its Near Earth Observation Program and its Asteroid Initiative. Abell said it's not the big ones that we know about in advance that are the problem.
"The issue becomes the ones that come from the direction of the sun -- we can't see those in the daylight," he said. "And the smaller and darker they are, the harder they are to see."