While space is very much true to its name, NASA's new simulation of the asteroids moving through our own solar system gives the illusion things are getting a bit cramped.
The beautiful, if not alarming, new video chronicles the discovery over the last two decades by NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) of large asteroids passing within roughly 30 million miles of our planet's orbit.
"We compute high-precision orbits for all asteroids and comets and map their positions in the Solar System, both forward in time to detect potential impacts, and backward to see where they've been in the sky," Paul Chodas, director of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, said in a statement. "We provide the best map of orbits for all known small bodies in the Solar System."
When the department was first tasked with tracking Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) in 1998, only a few hundred hazardous asteroids were known. Since then, as shown in the stunning animation above, more than 18,000 NEOs have been added to the list. Factor in the estimated 1.9 million objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and, well, it's a wonder we're still here at all.
As fuel for whatever anxiety you're already feeling, the group added that an average of 40 new asteroids are discovered every week. Thankfully, none of the NEOs catalogued since Jan. 1, 1999 pose a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future.
While its original mission to catalog at least 90 percent of NEOs two-thirds of a mile and larger in size has been considered a success, CNEOS isn't stopping there. In 2005, Congress gave the group a new directive to hunt asteroids down to the "smaller" size of 450 feet by 2020. While these rocks aren't considered planet killers, they could still wipe out millions. An asteroid only 900 feet across (about the size of three football fields), would be enough to destroy a vast portion of New York City.
So, rest easy. While the chances of finding yourself on the wrong side of an asteroid impact are incredibly small, at least someone is watching the (very busy) skies above our heads.