Fact Check: Posts Claim NASA Warned of a 72% Chance Asteroid Will Hit Earth in 2038. NASA Begs To Differ

Facebook account The Tatva
Facebook account The Tatva

Claim:

In June 2024, NASA warned there is a 72% chance an asteroid will hit Earth on July 12, 2038.

Rating:

Rating: False
Rating: False

On June 24, 2024, an X account claimed NASA had warned there was a 72% chance an asteroid would hit Earth on July 12, 2038.

The account wrote: "Asteroid to hit earth on 12th July 2038, Planetary defense exercise began as NASA issued alert for 14.25 Years; the asteroid said to be 88 ft. airplane size and may have 72% chance that it may hit Earth!"

Similar posts appeared elsewhere on X in June 2024, while the claim also cropped up in numerous Facebook posts.

One Facebook user asked if it was true NASA had made such an ominous prediction, while a Reddit user questioned whether the "asteroid expected to hit Earth [will] cause global extinction."

Together, the posts had amassed more than 357,000 interactions at the time of this writing.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/488114813739524/posts/491227950094877/

However, the posts were a misinterpretation of NASA's biennial Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise — the fifth of its kind — the purpose of which is to assess the United States' ability to deal with potentially dangerous asteroid or comet impacts, which is why we have rated this claim as "False."

In a June 20, 2024, news release, the government agency said there aren't any known significant asteroid threats to Earth in the foreseeable future:

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, in partnership with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State Office of Space Affairs, convened the tabletop exercise to inform and assess our ability as a nation to respond effectively to the threat of a potentially hazardous asteroid or comet.

Although there are no known significant asteroid impact threats for the foreseeable future, hypothetical exercises provide valuable insights by exploring the risks, response options, and opportunities for collaboration posed by varying scenarios, from minor regional damage with little warning to potential global catastrophes predicted years or even decades in the future.

The hypothetical exercise was managed by NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), which had carried out four similar theoretical drills in the past.

People involved looked into potential national and global responses in case a "never-before-detected asteroid was identified that had, according to initial calculations, a 72 percent chance of hitting Earth in approximately 14 years."

NASA said it will publish "a complete after-action report for the tabletop exercise" at a later date, which will include the strengths and weaknesses of possible responses.

On June 20, an X user asked NASA's official account how much time humanity has until an asteroid hits Earth.

The NASA account replied: "There are no known significant asteroid impact threats for the foreseeable future. This tabletop exercise is held about every two years, to support NASA's planetary defense strategy."

NASA told its followers not to worry about the exercise elsewhere on X on June 20.

Likewise, on June 30, the agency's X account again said "no known asteroids pose a threat to Earth."

NASA's interactive Eyes on Asteroids tool shows the expected paths of asteroids and planets for the next decade.

Sources:

'Eyes on Asteroids - NASA/JPL'. Eyes on Asteroids - NASA/JPL, https://eyes.nasa.gov/apps/asteroids. Accessed 2 July 2024.

NASA, Partners Conduct Fifth Asteroid Impact Exercise, Release Summary - NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/news-release/nasa-partners-conduct-fifth-asteroid-impact-exercise-release-summary/. Accessed 2 July 2024.

Planetary Defense at NASA - NASA Science. https://science.nasa.gov/planetary-defense/. Accessed 2 July 2024.

'X.Com'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/NASA/status/1803876386098040836. Accessed 2 July 2024.

'---'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/NASA/status/1803885520013136076. Accessed 2 July 2024.

'---'. X (Formerly Twitter), https://x.com/NASA/status/1807412526977544683. Accessed 2 July 2024.