Asteroid Isn't Going to Hit Earth the Day Before Election, Despite Neil deGrasse Tyson's Warning of 'Buzz-Cut'

An asteroid will hurtle safely past Earth on the eve of the U.S. presidential election, although astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said it could come close enough to "buzz-cut" the Earth.

While some news headlines have suggested that the space rock, dubbed 2018 VP1, could strike our planet on November 2, data from NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) suggests there is zero chance of that happening—although it could be a close shave.

"Asteroid 2018 VP1, a refrigerator-sized space-rock, is hurtling towards us at more than 25,000 miles per hour," deGrasse Tyson wrote on Twitter. "It may buzz-cut Earth on Nov. 2, the day before the Presidential Election."

Asteroid 2018VP1, a refrigerator-sized space-rock, is hurtling towards us at more than 40,000 km/hr.

It may buzz-cut Earth on Nov 2, the day before the Presidential Election.

It’s not big enough to cause harm. So if the World ends in 2020, it won’t be the fault of the Universe.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 18, 2020

The asteroid is set to make its close approach at 7:33 a.m. ET on November 2 when the space rock could come as close as 4,776 miles to the center of the Earth, CNEOS data suggests. This is the space rock's minimum-possible close approach distance.

For context, 4,776 miles is 2 percent of the average distance between the Earth and the moon, which is extremely close in astronomical terms.

In the unlikely event that 2018 VP1 comes so close, it may graze the exosphere—the very outer layer of the Earth's atmosphere, which is around 6,200 miles thick and gradually blends into the vacuum of outer space.

NASA's Asteroid Watch predicts that there is only a 0.41 percent chance of 2018 VP1 entering Earth's atmosphere. However, it does not predict it will strike the planet.

CNEOS data shows that the space rock's most likely close-approach distance is significantly greater than 4,776—around 260,276 miles. This is slightly larger than the average distance between the Earth and the moon.

Even if 2018 VP1 did enter Earth's atmosphere, NASA says it poses "no threat" to us because of its tiny size. The object is estimated to measure approximately 6.5 feet in diameter, meaning it would burn up and disintegrate in the atmosphere long before it could reach the surface.

"It's not big enough to cause harm. So if the World ends in 2020, it won't be the fault of the Universe," deGrasse Tyson said.

2018 VP1 is classified as a near-Earth object. These NEOs are any asteroid or comet with an orbit around the sun which will come within 121 million miles of our star, or 30 million miles of the Earth's own orbital path within the next two hundred years or so.

Another NEO, dubbed 2020 HF4, will fly past the Earth on the actual day of the election, CNEOS figures show. The tiny asteroid will pass our planet at 6:53 p.m. ET on November 3 at a likely distance 3,848,370 miles—much further out than 2018 VP1.

Stock image: Artist's illustration of an asteroid. A tiny space rock will pass extremely close to Earth the day before the U.S. presidential election. iStock