GREENSBORO, N.C. — It sounds like an Armageddon movie-type plot line -- a massive asteroid is making a beeline for Earth, and civilization is doomed. A similar claim is circulating the internet and heightening alarm among non-space experts who read it.

VERIFY QUESTION

Cassandra Johnson submitted to WFMY News 2's Meghann Mollerus a picture of the jarring headline, which VERIFY traced back to the International Business Times. It reads, "1,247-Foot Killer Asteroid Skims Earth Tonight: Everything You Need To Know." The article is dated September 5, 2019.

VERIFY SOURCE

To VERIFY its legitimacy, meteorologist Eric Chilton consulted sources including NASA and Live Science.

VERIFY PROCESS

Chilton discovered the claim is true -- three asteroids did pass by Earth on Sept. 5, and two more went by Sept. 9.

However, to say the asteroids "skimmed" Earth is over-dramatic. NASA's Center For Near Object Studies follows asteroids and explains N.E.O.s (or "near earth objects") pass by Earth all the time.

"'Close' to earth is a relative term, because they consider 500,000 miles as a near-miss in space terms," Chilton said.

He further explained, "This is something to take seriously, since some of these asteroids are thousands of feet wide and are traveling at speeds like 50,000 miles per hour. If that hit the Earth, scientists say the explosion would be equal to about 10 megatons of TNT or the equivalent of a large nuclear blast!"

The Center For Near Object Studies said there are approximately 878 N.E.O.s that could hit Earth, but scientists closely watch their journeys. One scientist said, "It's really not an 'if,' it's a 'when' kind of question.

VERIFY CONCLUSION

Yes, a huge asteroid did pass by Earth Sept. 9, but it wasn't close enough to pose a real threat to humankind.

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