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Asteroid 2023 DW
Asteroid 2023 DWCourtesy of NASA

Could this asteroid put us out of our misery on Valentine’s Day?

Roses are red, violets are blue, thank you mighty space rock, you’re my real boo

Good news for any of us who find ourselves single on Valentine’s Day in 2046 – if we’re lucky, a huge asteroid might just come along to put us out of our misery. Snappily named 2023 DW, the love-filled lump of space rock was first discovered late last month, and is now being tracked by scientists to determine how likely it is to make impact with Earth on February 14, a couple of decades down the line.

When the European Space Agency (ESA) found the asteroid hurtling through space on February 26, it was quickly added to organisation’s “risk list” – an inventory of objects that could potentially collide with Earth and cause some level of harm. Right now, it takes the number one spot.

Estimated to measure around 50 metres in diameter, or around the size of an Olympic swimming pool (though “size uncertainty could be large”), 2023 DW would definitely pose a threat if it did hurtle toward Earth. For comparison, a 50-metre asteroid that exploded above Eastern Siberia in 1908 was said to have flattened 80 million trees over an area of more than 800 square miles.

Don’t worry, though. On discovery, researchers reckoned that 2023 DW had a one-in-607 chance of hitting our home planet. According to the scale used to measure the threat of such collisions, this means that it actually posed “no unusual level of danger” and “no cause for public concern”. Since then, the risk has been downgraded even further.

That being said, if the lonely single does miss us on February 14, 2046, we could get a chance to reunite on following Valentine’s Days, from 2047 to 2051. Either we kiss in the 2023 DW crater or we’re wiped out for good (if NASA doesn’t nudge it off course). Sounds like a win-win.

“Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW”, reads a tweet from NASA Asteroid Watch posted last week, “and update predictions as more data comes in.”