Scientists at NASA discovered overnight a relatively large asteroid which will collide with Earth tomorrow around noon Eastern Standard Time.
Emergency preparations are being made at the highest level of the U.S. government for the impact of the object, which measures nearly 1/2 a kilometer long and is predicted to land somewhere in either Europe, North America, or the northern Atlantic Ocean.
The asteroid, known as 2012 XM21, went undetected until now because of high levels of chroniton radiation in its core, which shielded it from the sensor technology of NASA's Near Earth Object Program.
Stunned researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA picked up the object at around 4:00 am EST this morning on their instruments and immediately alerted the nation's political and military leaders.
The Earth's Darkest Day...
Analysts at NASA and the Defense Department are predicting that 2012 XM21 will hit the Earth with the impact of over five atomic bombs, enough to destroy a large city, but not sufficient to cause an apocalyptic change to the Earth's atmosphere.
The amount of damage will depend on where exactly the rock hits, which is impossible to predict until its passes though Earth's graviton field just minutes before collision. Saul Feldman, a astronomy professor at UCLA, explains the likely consequences:
"If the asteroid hits a populated area, there is a significant risk of widespread destruction. Anything within 40km of the impact point will be vaporized instantly. A few cities may be destroyed, but it won't be the end of the world. And if it hits the ocean, there is a chance of giant tsunamis - which could cause massive devastation in coastal areas."
"Deaths could run anywhere from a few thousand to a few million, depending on where the asteroid strikes. It will be one of the worst natural disasters in human history. But in either scenario life will go on. This rock just isn't big enough to destroy everything."
Feldman says the best outcome to hope for will be for it to hit an isolated spot somewhere on land, which would minimize instant causalities and pose no tsunami risk:
"Someplace like northern Canada would be ideal."
Who Will Be Left Behind?
The White House is expected to make an official announcement concerning the asteroid tomorrow morning. The administration has asked all major networks for an hour of airtime at 10:00 am EST.
Officials are scrambling to put together an action plan to avoid mass panic, which the administration sees as a greater danger the the collision itself. Although mass migrations and a rush on supplies are expected, one expert explains that most efforts to prepare for the impact will be futile:
"Its too close to shoot down with nuclear weapons, and our photon torpedo technology hasn't become operational yet. So realistically there's nothing any we can do to protect ourselves."
"Either it will hit you or it won't. And if it hits you, no bomb shelter is going to protect you. It might still make sense to book a ticket to Latin America, because there's a zero percent chance it will hit below the equator. But if you can't do that, its a game of wait and see."
The date of the asteroid's arrival - December 21st - coincides with the date of the Mayan prophecy for the end of the world. The prophecy also predicts earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and flooding - none of which have so far materialized.