Asteroid heading towards Earth in time for US election

An asteroid being tracked by NASA has a small chance of colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere a day before the US election.

The space rock, known as 2018VP1, is expected to come closest to the planet on 2 November – just hours before Americans head to the polls as Donald Trump and Joe Biden vie for the presidency.

The chances of the asteroid making impact stand at just 0.41% – or one in 240 – and even if it did succeed, it would break up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

It could come as close as 4,700 miles (7,563km) or be as far away as 260,000 miles (418,429km) when it passes, meaning it may be nearer to Earth than the moon and some telecommunications space satellites when it flies by.

The incoming asteroid, which is around two metres (6.5ft) wide, was first identified at Palomar Observatory, California, back in November 2018. It is said to be travelling at an estimated speed of more than 21,000mph.

NASA has said there are three potential impacts, calculated from 21 observations taken from about 13 days, but it is not expecting a direct hit.

The space agency has confirmed the asteroid “poses no threat to Earth” – and if it does enter the atmosphere, it will “disintegrate due to its extremely small size”.

Last week, it was revealed that an asteroid the size of a car had flown 1,830 miles (2,950km) above the southern Indian Ocean – closer than any seen before without hitting the planet.