A huge asteroid that is estimated to be three times larger than the Empire State Building is expected to fly by earth this week.
According to NASA, the asteroid is traveling at a speed of seven miles per second and will be coming very close to Earth, but is still expected to safely pass our planet without incident. However, the agency said that they are keeping a close eye on the asteroid, and have classified it as “potentially hazardous” because it would certainly cause some damage if it struck the earth somewhere.
Luckily, all projections have indicated that the rock will pass within 3.8 million miles of earth. This may sound like a long distance, but considering the vastness of space, this is a little bit too close for comfort. According to NASA, any space object that comes within 120 million miles of Earth is considered a “near-Earth object.”
According to NASA’s NEO tracker site, which tracks space objects, the asteroid that is scheduled to pass by the planet, named 1997 BQ, will make its approach to our planet at 9.45 pm BST on May 21.
Much larger asteroids have come within a close distance of Earth’s orbit in the past. That largest ever was the asteroid called 3122 Florence (1981 ET3), which flew by the earth on September 1, 2017 and came a bit too close for comfort. That asteroid is estimated to be between two and a half and five and a half miles wide, and it is projected to make another pass of our planet again on September 2, 2057.
These types of objects come close to our orbit more often than people believe. In fact, space is filled with asteroids and similar objects, and they pass by us on a routine basis. There are even many asteroids that do enter our atmosphere but either disintegrate before they hit the ground, or are so small that they don’t do any serious damage.
Astronomers estimate that they are currently tracking nearly 2,000 asteroids, comets, and other objects that may threaten Earth, and new ones are found every single day.
Millions of asteroids exist, many the shattered remnants of planetesimals, bodies within the young Sun’s solar nebula that never grew large enough to become planets.
The United Nations declared 30 June as International Asteroid Day to educate the public about asteroids. The date of International Asteroid Day commemorates the anniversary of the Tunguska asteroid impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908.
In April 2018, the B612 Foundation predicted that, “It’s 100 percent certain we’ll be hit [by a devastating asteroid], but we’re not 100 percent sure when.”
In June 2018, the US National Science and Technology Council warned that America is unprepared for an asteroid impact event, and has developed and released the “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy Action Plan” to better prepare.
An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt, which is located between Mars and Jupiter but they can be found anywhere in the universe and are a frequent occurrence in space.