This is, of course, our new friend 2013 TV135, a 1,300' wide hunk of rock whizzing about the solar system which was spotted last month.
The news has, predictably enough, sent the tabloids into overdrive:
Nasa admit huge asteroid could destroy Earth in just NINETEEN years (Star)and
Huge asteroid 'will hit earth in 2032' claim astronomers (Express)Which, once you have eliminated the inevitable hyperbole, translates as 'current observations indicate a 1 in 19,000 chance of striking the Earth in 2032' - those observations providing just ten days' worth of data so far.
What seems to have got everyone so excited is the announcement that TV135 has been given a rating of 1 on the Torino scale, one of only two in that classification at present.
And even that, when you get down to the detail, isn't quite as exciting as it sounds; the scale goes from 0 to 10, and 1 - 'Normal' - doesn't even make it into the yellow zone, let alone orange or red:
A routine discovery in which a pass near Earth is predicted that poses no unusual level of danger. Current calculations show the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or public concern. New telescopic observations very likely will lead to re-assignment to Level 0.
Still, why let the details get in the way of a good headline? It's a tabloid editor's dream; too far into the future to spark a mass panic but threatening enough to create a sensation.
It would be pleasant to think that this major global threat - even if it exists largely in the minds of sensation-hungry journalists - might bring about a radical improvement in behaviour and provide humanity with a new sense of purpose, but I suspect much of what we laughably call civilization is too far gone for that.
When the idea of impending doom took hold in plague- and war-ravaged 14th-Century Europe, society polarised into religious fanaticism and hedonism, some groups becoming ever more extreme in asserting their own religious superiority while others descended into a last-ditch Bacchanalian frenzy.
Somehow, we seem to have got to that stage before the threat arrived.