Every so often some lunatics on the internet will claim that a gigantic asteroid is hurtling toward Earth that will end life as we know it. Usually, NASA does not respond. But, this time, the space agency has apparently had enough, publishing a post to debunk the most recent claims that a massive asteroid will impact the planet in September, somewhere near Puerto Rico.
“There is no scientific basis—not one shred of evidence—that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office. “If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now.” NASA closely monitors all potentially hazardous asteroids and says there is less than a 0.01% chance that any of them will impact Earth in the next 100 years.
Of course, NASA didn’t need to weigh in. The rumors have been posted on a few fringe blogs, but haven’t been reported on by any legitimate scientific organization or website. NASA claims the rumors have “gone viral,” but Quartz has found no evidence to suggest that they have done so (trust us—if they had, we’d already be on that story). If anything, the fact that NASA has now mentioned the rumors has given them far more exposure than they ever would have received otherwise.
It’s unusual for a government agency to interact with its online community like this, but NASA is not a normal government agency. As Quartz detailed in July, the agency’s ubiquitous social media presence sets the standard of how governments should break down barriers between itself and its public.
But maybe this is going too far?
These rumors had not garnered widespread attention like Y2K or the 2012 Doomsday scenario. Those were no less ridiculous than the current rumors, but at least those were cultural phenomena that received mainstream exposure. But a few guys on the internet foretelling the End of Days—something that happens all the time, it seems—probably isn’t worth the effort to correct.