The interesting thing about cataclysmic asteroid collisions is that they not only can happen, they have happened, and they will happen again—-eventually. They are common in geological history, but extremely unlikely within the lifetime of any particular person. This gap in chronological scales, and the perception of time, is beyond the knowledge or comprehension of much of the audience, hence the potential for sensationalism.
There are ways to report on occasional close approaches by near-Earth objects (NEOs) that convey the respectful awareness of their presences and the fact that our planet shares its neighborhood with many other objects, large and small… and that sometimes their paths around the Sun bring them unnervingly close to our own.
Then there’s just straight-up over-sensationalism intended to drum up page views by scaring the heck out of people, regardless of facts.
Apparently this is what’s happened regarding the upcoming close approach by NEO 2014 YB35. An asteroid of considerable (but definitely not unprecedented) size - estimated 440-990 meters in diameter, or around a third of a mile across - YB35 will pass by Earth on Friday, March 27, coming as close as 11.7 times the distance between Earth and the Moon at 06:20 UTC.
11.7 lunar distances. That’s 4.5 million kilometers, or almost 2.8 million miles. Cosmically close, sure, but far from “skimming”…and certainly with no danger of an impact or any of the nasty effects that would be a result thereof. None. Zero. Zilch. NASA isn’t concerned, and you shouldn’t be either.
More: No, a Giant Asteroid Isn’t Going to ‘Skim’ Earth on Friday