‘NASA’ Warns Asteroid Headed Toward Earth?

On May 13 2022, an item from a site called American Military News (“NASA warns asteroid larger than Empire State Building headed towards Earth this weekend”) appeared on Trendolizer, indicating significant social media traction:

More readers likely saw the headline and preview text than the article itself. The garbled preview claimed that an “asteroid the size that could be taller than the Empire State Building in New York is approaching Earth at more than 18,000 miles per hour …”

Clicking through led to a blog post that began:

An asteroid the size that could be taller than the Empire State Building in New York is approaching Earth at more than 18,000 miles per hour and will arrive at its closest to Earth this weekend [May 13 through 15 2022].

The asteroid, dubbed 388945 (2008 TZ3) is the largest of five asteroids to approach Earth between Friday [May 13 2022] and Monday [May 16 2022], according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) estimates the asteroid is between 220 and 490 meters long. For reference, the Empire State Building is about 443 meters (1,453 feet) tall.

A few paragraphs down, however, American Military News admitted:

Luckily, the asteroid is expected to miss Earth by about 3.6 million miles when it passes at around 5:18 p.m. EST on Sunday [May 15 2022].

The site hyperlinked “estimates” in the excerpt above, leading to an entry on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) for 388945 (2008 TZ3). That information could not be mistaken for a warning, and it provided 38 total instances during which asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) came in closer proximity to Earth; May 2022 was the tenth such entry since 2006.

NDTV also covered the trajectory of asteroid 388945 (“1,600-Feet Asteroid, Bigger Than Most Buildings, Heading Towards Earth”), but noted that May 2022 was “not the first time that Asteroid 388945 has paid us a visit,” and it “passed very close to Earth in May 2020”:

Space scientists have warned that a huge asteroid is heading towards the Earth. According to American space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), which is monitoring it, the giant space rock Asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) will make close approach to our planet at 2.48am on May 16 [2022].

NASA further said that the asteroid is 1,608 feet wide. In comparison, New York’s iconic Empire State building stands at 1,454 feet. It is also bigger than the Eiffel Tower and dwarf the Statue of Liberty too.

The space rock can cause huge damage if it hits the Earth. But space scientists’ calculations say it will pass us from a distance of about 2.5 million miles away.

NDTV linked to NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids resource, where 388945 was depicted alongside other asteroids. Visiting that page enabled readers to view the “next five closest approaches to Earth” by various asteroids, and also did not resemble a “warning” by any stretch of the imagination.

NASA’s JPL also hosted a Next Five Asteroid Approaches page, and asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) was one of the five asteroids listed. It was the largest of the five, but also described as having a “closest Earth approach” distance of 3,570,000 miles — the most distant of the five asteroids listed.

A viral May 13 2022 American Military News post proclaimed that NASA warned an “asteroid larger than Empire State Building [was] headed towards Earth” the weekend ending May 16 2022. NASA did not warn of any such risk, as the site later admitted. NASA’s JPL maintained a page for the “Next Five Asteroid Approaches,” and that particular asteroid (388945 2008 TZ3) was the furthest away of the five being observed.