The headlines are irresistible: "Asteroid headed for Earth the day before Election Day" (Fox13) and "NASA: Asteroid headed toward Earth before November election" (the Hill). And they are technically true: An asteroid named 2018VP1 is indeed heading our way, and it will be closest on Nov. 2. But the less sexy part is that NASA says it "poses no threat to Earth!" For one thing, the asteroid is tiny as these things go, not quite 7 feet long, and NASA figures it has just a 0.41% chance of entering Earth's atmosphere on election eve. "Considering the stakes and the year we're all having, maybe a 1 in 240 chance still feels a little high for comfort," writes Jacinta Bowler at Science Alert. "We get it." But there's still no need to worry.
The asteroid is so small that if it does enter our atmosphere, it would burn up before hitting the ground, says NASA. This particular space rock comes our way every two years, and NASA estimates it will fly within 4,800 to 260,000 miles of Earth, per Business Insider. For context, the outlet notes that the International Space Station is 254 miles above us. The bigger asteroid worry might be those we don't know about. For instance, NASA said last week that one the size of an SUV came within 1,830 miles of Earth, the closest such flyby on record. Scientists didn't know the newly named 2020 QG existed until it was gone. (The one that doomed the dinosaurs was particularly lethal because of its flight angle.)