Asteroid close approach: NASA pinpoints date ‘potentially hazardous’ rock to flyby Earth
Asteroid approaches near Earth are no longer a rare occurrence to observe, thanks to NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) initiative. Operated by the US-based space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CNEOS now maintains a publicly available datasheet of near-Earth asteroids. This includes both historic data, as well as asteroids that are expected to fly past Earth in relatively close quarters.
NASA can consequently confirm 48 asteroids of varying sizes are slated to approach Earth at a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of less than 0.05 AU – approximately 4.6 million miles (7.48 million km).
It is this orbit distance, coupled with visual magnitude of 22 or above, that classifies an asteroid as ‘potentially hazardous’.
This is technically correct, even if it does not necessarily mean life on Earth is at threat from an apocalyptic asteroid strike.
Taking these data points into consideration, NASA has confirmed six asteroids almost 656ft (200m) or larger across are scheduled to fly past Earth in close proximity in 2020.
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The most immediate threat comes to Earth arrives today, Tuesday, July 21.
This sees asteroid 2002 BF25 hurtling past our planet.
2002 BF25 measures 656ft (220m) in diameter at its widest point and is expected to be about 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometres) from Earth at its closest approach.
With a visual magnitude value of 22.2, asteroid 2002 BF25 qualifies as a potentially hazardous asteroid.
This qualifies the space rock as being one of the larger space rocks to come near our planet this year.
Following up later this week is the asteroid 2020 ND, which is 850ft (260m) large at its widest point, and has designated visual magnitude value of almost 22.
Scheduled to fly by on July 24, asteroid 2020 ND will, fortunately, fly further away from Earth, approaching our planet at a distance of approximately 3.4 million miles (5.57 million kilometres) at its nearest orbit intersection with Earth.
The asteroid 2009 PQ1 is the smallest of the big asteroids in this list, measuring a ‘mere’ 623ft (190m) across.
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The space rock will come to its closest distance with Earth on August 5, when it will be at a distance of 2.5 million miles (4.12 million kilometres) from Earth.
However, its visual magnitude value of 22.5 is also the highest in this list, which yet again squarely classifies it as ‘potentially hazardous’.
But do not be alarmed, as 2009 PQ1’s passage should be perfectly safe, posing no imminent threat to us.
Asteroid 465824 2010 FR’s close approach to Earth will be the farthest among all the large space rocks floating around us, at approximately 4.5 million miles (7.4 million kilometres) distant.
The space rock’s orbit intersection with Earth is at the upper limit of what is considered ‘hazardous’ by NASA.
Asteroid 2010 FR is 885ft (270m) large in diameter at its widest point, a visibility value of 21.7 and is expected to safely fly past Earth on September 6.
The most monstrous asteroid slated to approach Earth within the remaining six months of 2020 is 153201 2000 WO107.
Boasting a diameter of 2,600ft (820m), this asteroid is almost as large as eight football pitches in length, and only slightly smaller than the height of the world’s tallest building, theBurj Khalifa.
This mammoth space rock will approach Earth at a distance of 2.6 million miles (4.3 million kilometres) on November 29, and has designated visibility value of 19.3, which thankfully cuts it out from NASA’s ‘potentially hazardous’ classification.
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