According to NASA, an asteroid the size of a professional football stadium is expected to pass Earth this weekend. The space agency classifies this asteroid as “potentially hazardous,” and it is not alone either, there are actually a group of asteroids ready to pass by earth in the coming days, although the others are much smaller.
This is not necessarily a cause for concern, because the asteroid is not expected to hit earth, but it is expected to get a little bit too close for comfort.
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.
NASA keeps track of all of the asteroids that they can find in space, but any object within 7.5 million kilometers of Earth, that is also over 150m wide, is listed as “potentially hazardous,” by the space agency.
The vast majority of the asteroids that are listed as potentially hazardous pass by earth safely. The primary asteroid that scientists have their eyes on this weekend is known as 2002 NN4.
NN4 is about 320m long, and is expected to approach within 5.09 million kilometers of the Earth this weekend. The asteroid is expected to pass the Earth at a speed of 11.146km per second on Saturday.
Asteroid 2002 NN4 will safely pass by Earth on June 6 by over 13 lunar distances (LD) – 13 times the distance of the Moon from Earth, or approx. 3.2 million miles/5.1 million km. All known near-Earth object (#NEO) close approaches may be found here: https://t.co/ocjetQM9X4 pic.twitter.com/KHEHjJrOeM
— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) June 5, 2020
The asteroid orbits the sun every 300 days and turns on its axis a little over every 14 days, which means that it is expected to pass by earth once again on June 7, 2029.
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.
NASA’s has collected data on some of the biggest asteroids that have come close to Earth over the last 120 years in its near Earth object close approach database.
The biggest in the database is 3122 Florence, which estimated to be between 4km and 9km. Florence passed Earth on September 1, 2017, and is expected to pass by again on September 2, 2057.