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Asteroid could hit USA before Election Day
via wikimedia commons

In incredible timing, an asteroid might hit the US just before Election Day

Is this the one good thing to come from 2020?

If the chaotic political race doesn’t obliterate the US before Election Day in November, an asteroid threatening to collide with Earth might just do it.

NASA has been tracking the trajectory of an asteroid that has a chance of hitting the Earth’s atmosphere a day before the election. Named 2018VP1, NASA reports that it could get the closest it could to Earth on November 2, as close as 4,700 miles, the day before the presidential polls in the US. That would mean it’s closer to the planet than the moon and several space satellites. The asteroid is about two metres wide and is travelling at a speed of 21,000 miles per hour. Researchers from the Palomar Observatory in California first discovered the asteroid back in November 2018.

Approximations place the chance of impact at 0.41 per cent (one in 240). If it did happen to make an impact, it would have significantly broken up and disintegrated in the Earth’s surrounding atmosphere. NASA has hypothesized three potential impact scenarios across 21 investigations in two weeks, but a direct hit is not expected. The agency confirmed it “poses no threat to Earth”.

As we approach the American election – maybe the most high stakes, significant, pivotal election runs ever – the U.S feels precarious and charged. Donald Trump and Joe Biden are facing off, and the Trump administration looks to be engaging in voter suppression. The Republican party has rolled out aggressive plans for poll-monitoring amid Trump’s repeated – but largely unfounded – claims of voter fraud. Now-delayed plans to cut funding to the United States Postal Service looked to be a deliberate attempt to impede Democrat votes – more people are expected to mail-in votes due to the pandemic, and a recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll showed that 62 per cent of Biden supporters say they plan to cast their ballot by post, with 72 per cent of Trump fans saying they will vote in person. 

More and more US citizens have been found to be questioning the integrity of the forthcoming election – a recent poll found 59 per cent of Americans didn’t feel confident in the honesty of the nation’s elections, with numbers increasing among young people and college students. This is due to the fight over UPS, as well as reports of Russian and other foreign interference in the 2016 elections. A report by the Financial Times also highlighted that Trump is considering granting fast-track approval to a coronavirus vaccine being developed in Oxford, so that it is available ahead of the elections. The report highlights that Trump could use this to subvert the narrative of the presidential race, touting it as an American success, despite his inaction that has meant the US remains one of the worst-hit nation’s by the COVID-19. Other polls have also found that an increasing majority of Americans – including Trump supporters – are unimpressed with his response to the pandemic.

The race between Biden and Trump remains highly charged. The Republican president is facing off with Democratic Party nominee Biden, who was Barack Obama’s vice-president. So far, Biden has polled better than Trump nationally, at a consistent 50 per cent. At his most popular, he’s held a 10-point lead over Trump. Significantly, Biden is performing well in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, ‘battleground’ states that were important states for Trump to win the presidency in 2016. 

Last week, NASA also identified a car-sized asteroid that flew 1,830 miles above the Indian Ocean, which is thought to have been the closest an asteroid has gotten to Earth without hitting it. Also last week, scientists made an unusual discovery in space: a gas cloud that appears to be ‘beating’ to the rhythm of a neighbouring black hole. The cosmic gas cloud – created when dust and gas gather in space – was found to have a ‘heartbeat’ after researchers looked through 10 years of data from a NASA space telescope.

global pandemicmurder hornets, the return of the bubonic plague, a chaotic election that could determine so much, and a humongous asteroid? 2020 is a trip.