Science & Technology

Mountain-sized asteroid to pass “close” to Earth

Miami, Jan 18 (EFE).- An asteroid approximately 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) in diameter on Tuesday will pass the “closest” any significantly-sized asteroid will come to Earth over the next two centuries, but experts say it poses no risk to the planet since at closest approach it will still be 1.9 million km (about 1.2 million miles) away, or more than five times as far away as the Moon.

In contrast to the planet-killing threat depicted in the recent and highly popular film “Don’t Look Up,” asteroid 7482 1994 PC1, which is more than double the size of New York City’s Empire State Building, will “safely” pass by the planet on Tuesday afternoon, NASA said.

Discovered in 1994 by NASA scientists, the asteroid is moving through space at 47,344 miles per hour (about 13.2 miles per second), according to the US space agency’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, the NASA division that tracks comets and asteroids that could potentially collide with the planet, potentially wreaking untold havoc.

According to NASA, the object’s trajectory will take it closest to Earth at 4:51 pm, US Eastern Time (2151 GMT) and this will be the closest any known relatively large asteroid will come to Earth in the next 200 years.

Specialized media outlets emphasized that the space rock will not be visible to the naked eye from Earth, but people could spot it using small telescopes.

This asteroid is not the largest ever to pass close to Earth, that dubious honor going to 3122 Florence (1981 ETc), which is between 1.5 and 5.5 miles in diameter and made a close approach to the planet in September 2017 but will not do so again until Sept. 2, 2057.

Near-earth objects, as NASA calls asteroids and comets it identifies and catalogues, have orbits that put them closer than 30 million miles from Earth.

Last year, NASA launched its first planetary defense mission from the US, a space probe that will be deliberately crashed into an asteroid to try and alter its orbit and thus test technology that might one day need to be used to divert an asteroid from a trajectory that would intersect with Earth.

Calculations show that, if a comet or asteroid that is known to be on an Earth-impact trajectory is hit early enough and with sufficient force by some kind of missile and its trajectory altered by even only a slight amount, that could be enough to cause the object – weeks later when it nears Earth – to miss the planet entirely.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test Mission (DART) was launched last November on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

DART will travel through space at some 3.7 miles per second and this September is scheduled to crash into Dimorphos, the small “moon” orbiting the asteroid Didymos and which is 780 meters (about half a mile) in diameter, in an attempt to slightly alter its orbit.

EFE lce/ar/laa/bp

Related Articles

Back to top button