A “potentially hazardous” asteroid how big is a blue whale is defined to zip past Earth on Friday (Aug. 12), in accordance with NASA (opens in new tab).
The asteroid, named 2015 FF, comes with an estimated diameter between 42 and 92 feet (13 and 28 meters), or around the body amount of a grown-up blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), and it’ll zoom at night Earth at 20,512 mph (33,012 km/h).
At its closest approach, the asteroid traveling at around than 27 times the speed of sound should come within about 2.67 million miles (4.3 million kilometers) of Earth, a bit more than eight times the common distance between Earth and the moon. By cosmic standards, it is a tiny margin.
Related: Why are asteroids and comets such weird shapes? (opens in new tab)
NASA flags any space object that comes within 120 million miles (193 million km) of Earth as a “near-Earth object” and any fast-moving object within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million km) is categorized as “potentially hazardous.” After the objects are flagged, astronomers closely monitor them, searching for any deviation from their predicted trajectories such as for example an urgent bounce off another asteroid which could hook them up to a devastating collision course with Earth.
NASA knows the positioning and orbit of roughly 28,000 asteroids, which it maps with the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) a range of four telescopes with the capacity of performing a whole scan of the complete night sky once every 24 hours. Since ATLAS came online in 2017, it has detected a lot more than 700 near-Earth asteroids and 66 comets. Two of the asteroids detected by ATLAS, 2019 MO and 2018 LA, actually hit Earth, the former exploding off the southern coast of Puerto Rico and the latter landing close to the border of Botswana and South Africa. Fortunately, those asteroids were small and didnt cause any damage.
NASA has estimated the trajectories of all near-Earth objects beyond the finish of the century, and fortunately that Earth faces no known danger from an apocalyptic asteroid collision for at the very least another 100 years, in accordance with NASA (opens in new tab).
But this doesnt imply that space watchers think they ought to stop looking. Although most near-Earth objects might not be civilization-ending, just like the cataclysmic comet that appears in the 2021 satirical disaster movie “Don’t RESEARCH,” you may still find a lot of devastating asteroid impacts in recent history to justify the continued vigilance.
In March 2021, a bowling ball-sized meteor exploded over Vermont with the force of 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of TNT, Live Science previously reported (opens in new tab). Those fireworks, however, have nothing on probably the most explosive recent meteor event, which occurred close to the central Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013. Because the Chelyabinsk meteor struck the atmosphere, it generated a great time roughly add up to around 400 to 500 kilotons of TNT, or 26 to 33 times the power released by the Hiroshim (opens in new tab)a bomb. Fireballs rained down on the city and its own environs, damaging buildings, smashing windows and injuring approximately 1,200 people.
If astronomers were to ever spy an asteroid careening straight toward our world, space agencies all over the world are already focusing on possible methods to deflect the thing. On Nov. 24, 2021, NASA launched a spacecraft as part of its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which plans to redirect the non-hazardous asteroid Dimorphos by ramming it off course (opens in new tab) in autumn 2022, Live Science previously reported. China can be in the first planning stages of an asteroid-redirect mission. By slamming 23 Long March 5 rockets in to the asteroid Bennu, the united states hopes to divert the area rock from the potentially catastrophic impact with Earth.
Originally published on Live Science.
Ben Turner is really a U.K. based staff writer at Live Science. He covers physics and astronomy, among other topics like weird animals and climate change. He graduated from University College London with a qualification in particle physics before training as a journalist. When he’s not writing, Ben enjoys reading literature, playing your guitar and embarrassing himself with chess.