2013 QR1 will make its nearest approach this time - at what space.com refers to as a 'safe distance' of 1.8 million miles - at 3.37am BST tomorrow morning, though enthusiasts can watch it in a webcast at the more civilized time of 5.30pm BST on Sunday.
Its recent discovery means that data from this pass will be needed to calculate whether there is any chance of a future impact, and there are still plenty more out there to be discovered, which rather calls into question the recent assurances that, based on current knowledge, we aren't in line for a strike for at least the next century.
“Finding 10,000 near-Earth objects is a significant milestone,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program, "but there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth.”Even leaving aside the question of all those 'unknown unknowns' still whizzing around up there, there's always the chance of a collision knocking one of the known ones onto a new trajectory. On a cosmic scale, it's always going to be a question of 'when', not 'if'.
And where's Lembit Opik while all this is going on? Surely this one-time stalwart campaigner for an asteroid early warning system has something to say on the matter? Unfortunately, he seems to have been occupied with matters rather closer to home:
'Former MP Lembit Opik bitten in the groin by a sausage dog while judging a charity pet show'I suppose it's too much to hope that this will convince him once and for all that the celebrity life isn't all it's cracked up to be and that he should return forthwith to matters astronomical.
After all, while the USA gears up for an asteroid-based gold rush and runs competitions to find a useful method of deflection, no-one in Britain has yet stepped up to become, as it were, the face of asteroids.
This should leave the field wide open for Opik, once described as the 'Nostradamus of Westminster' for his dire prognostications of asteroid impact. After all, his previous alternative careers haven't exactly left him covered in glory and it's clear he has no future as a dog show judge.
Sadly, I suspect that his media antics have effectively disqualified him from becoming our national authority on the subject; should we one day face an imminent impact, I, for one, don't want to hear about it from an alumnus of 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here'.