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Science And Nature

Surprise! Asteroid wider than 2 football fields is barreling toward Earth tonight

This artistic concept image shows an asteroid flying by Earth.

This artistic concept image shows an asteroid flying by Earth.(Image credit: Shutterstock)

An asteroid wider than two football fields will zoom past Earth in the wee hours of Thursday (Aug. 4). The asteroid is defined to pass at 12: 23 a.m. (ET).

NASA astronomers discovered the asteroid, referred to as 2022 OE2, just days ago, on July 26. The meaty space rock is estimated to measure between 557 and 1,246 feet (170 to 380 meters) wide, that is about doubly wide being an American football field is long. Astronomers also confirmed that 2022 OE2 can be an Apollo-class asteroid, this means it orbits sunlight and crosses the road of Earth‘s orbit, Live Science previously reported. (Astronomers know around 15,000 such asteroids.)

The impact from an asteroid this large would release more energy than 1,000 nuclear bombs. However, that one will miss Earth by way of a wide margin, in accordance with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Asteroid 2022 OE2 is predicted to pass Earth far away of roughly 3.2 million miles (5.1 million kilometers) a lot more than 13 times the common distance between Earth and the moon. For context, that is significantly farther compared to the asteroid 2022 NF, which came inside a mere 56,000 miles (90,000 km) or around 23% the common distance between Earth and the moon on July 7.

NASA monitors thousands of near-Earth objects such as this one and contains estimated the trajectories of most of these beyond the finish of the century. The good thing is, Earth is in no threat of a cataclysmic asteroid impact for at the very least another 100 years, NASA has said.

Still, astronomers know a minor change in trajectory that could be the effect of a collision with another asteroid, for instance, or the gravitational pull of a planet could alter the orbit of a big asteroid and wear it a potentially catastrophic course with Earth.

Therefore, space agencies take planetary defense very seriously. In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid-deflecting mission called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, when a spacecraft will slam straight into the 525-foot-wide (160 m) asteroid Dimorphos in autumn 2022. The collision won’t destroy the asteroid, nonetheless it may change the area rock’s orbital path slightly, Live Science previously reported. The mission can help test the viability of asteroid deflection, should some future space rock pose an imminent danger to your planet.

Originally published on Live Science.

Brandon Specktor

Brandon is a senior writer at Live Science since 2017, and was formerly an employee writer and editor at Reader’s Digest magazine. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website along with other outlets. He holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.

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