Three enormous asteroids will pass by Earth this week, entering the zone that technically makes them “potentially hazardous” objects. But NASA says all will miss.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory lists the next five approaches of asteroids and among them are three the size of skyscrapers but none will come closer than a few million kilometres. The moon is 385,000 kilometres from earth.
Already zooming past without incident are two 137-metre wide asteroids; 2012 DK31 and 2006 BE55. They flew past on Monday and Tuesday. DK31 was a smidge under 5 million km from Earth at its closest while BE55 got to within 3.6 million km.
Either side of 2012 DK31 were the smaller asteroids 2023 CX2 (roughly 11 metres across – coming within 3 million km) and 2023 CC2 (30 metres wide – more than 6 million km away at its closest).
Yet to come is the real monster of the pack – the 213-metre wide 2007 ED125. The stadium-sized asteroid will come within 4.5 million km on March 3.
Read more: Don’t look up, these asteroids might be too difficult to destroy. It’s not all bad news though
Though these space rocks pose no imminent threat, they technically fall under NASA’s classification “potentially hazardous asteroid” (PHA). This means that the rocks are large enough that, should their course alter, they would cause serious damage.
Any asteroid greater than 137 metres wide and closer than 7.5 million kilometres fall into this category.
The solar system is littered with millions of asteroids – the debris left behind from the formation of the planets and their moons.
Looking at NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies list of close approaches, it is almost as if Earth is in the middle of a space highway with objects flying by all the time. As telescopes develop and we are able to store and sift through more data, we’re finding more of the space rocks – especially the smaller ones that have evaded our sights until now.
According to current projections by NASA, no space rocks are forecast to collide with Earth in the next 100 years.
NASA and other space agencies spend a lot of time tracking the space rocks. Even smaller asteroids of only a few tens of metres would cause massive destruction if they hit a populated area.
Read more: We didn’t die from 2023 BU, but why did we only find out about the asteroid on Saturday?
Collisions with other asteroids or gravitational influence from a planet or moon could see unexpected trajectory changes.
What we do if an asteroid does head our way? DART holds our best hopes and NASA is working on the analysis of that project and will release content within days.
Originally published by Cosmos as This week’s forecast: Three “skyscraper-sized” asteroids to pass near Earth’s orbit according to NASA
Evrim Yazgin has a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematical physics and a Master of Science in physics, both from the University of Melbourne.
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