Giant asteroid to zoom past Earth this week
A giant asteroid measuring more than a mile long will zoom past the Earth this week. The “potentially hazardous” asteroid, named 1989 JA, is the largest expected to get very close to the planet in 2022.
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Experts say that an asteroid this large could cause catastrophic damage if it landed on Earth. Nonetheless, they say there is no cause for alarm. Although it will come close to the planet, it will stay about 2.5 million miles away. That is nearly 10 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
Franck Marchis, the chief scientific officer at Unisterllar and a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, told reporters that the asteroid is traveling at a speed of 30,000 mph. “To provide some context, that is 17 times the speed of a bullet through the air. At this speed, the asteroid could travel around the planet Earth in 45 minutes,” Marchis said.
The classification of the asteroid as “potentially hazardous” means that it can cause serious damage to the Earth if it changes its orbit and heads towards the Earth’s surface. The chances of this happening, however, are almost non-existent. Although the asteroid will be close to the Earth, it will not be visible to the naked eye. However, professional and amateur astronomers can view it using telescopes.
An asteroid zooming near planet Earth is nothing new. NASA says that there are nearly 29,000 asteroids that orbit near the earth. However, only 878 of those are larger than 3,280 feet wide. The identified 1989 JA measures more than 5,000 feet in width.
The 1989 JA is among the 29,000 near-earth asteroids that NASA monitors classified under the Apollo class. These include asteroids that orbit the sun but periodically cross the Earth’s orbit. The asteroid has previously come closer to the Earth, but never as close as this time.
This particular asteroid was first discovered in 1989 by astronomer Eleanor Helin at the Palomar Observatory station in California. The asteroid shows up in the Earth’s direction once every few years. Experts believe that the next flight of the asteroid in Earth’s orbit will be before June 2055.