Largest Asteroid to Pass Earth This Week Is About the Size of a Plane
This week, Earth will be visited by five asteroids, the largest of which is around the size of a plane. According to NASA, they will all most likely go harmlessly past our globe.
According to NASA’s Asteroid Watch database, the five asteroids, the smallest of which is the size of a bus, are skimming across Earth’s orbit between Friday (Sept. 8) and Saturday (Sept. 9).
The first is the about 39-foot-wide (12-meter) asteroid 2023 RG, which will swing by Earth on Friday at a distance of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers). Later that day, the 88-foot-wide (27-meter) 2023 RH, 82-foot-wide (25-meter) 2023 QC5, and 26-foot-wide (8-meter) 2020 GE will approach within 1 million miles, 2.5 million miles (4. million km), and 3.6 million miles (5.7 million km), respectively.
Finally, on September 9, the 24-foot-wide (7-meter) asteroid 2023 RL will fly by Earth at a cosmically small distance of 469,000 miles (755,000 km).
NASA classified every space object that comes within 120 million miles (193 million km) of Earth as a “near-Earth object” and any huge item that comes within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million km) of our planet as “potentially hazardous.” NASA monitors the positions and orbits of over 28,000 asteroids using the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), a network of four telescopes capable of scanning the whole night sky every 24 hours. If you want you can also read – NASA and SpaceX Partner to Send Humans to Asteroid.
All of these near-Earth objects’ trajectories have been estimated by NASA to extend beyond the end of the century. According to NASA, there is no known threat of apocalyptic asteroid collision for at least the next 100 years.
The five fast-approaching asteroids would not create a cataclysmic disaster like the 7.5-mile-wide (12-kilometer) dinosaur-killing asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago. However, this does not mean that smaller asteroids are not deadly. A bowling ball-sized asteroid, for example, erupted above Vermont in March 2021 with the force of 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of TNT.
Even more spectacularly, a 59-foot-wide (18-meter) meteor explosion above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 produced a blast roughly equivalent to 400 to 500 kilotons of TNT, or 26 to 33 times the energy released by the Hiroshima bomb, and injured approximately 1,500 people.
Understanding asteroids’ paths can be more difficult than it appears due to the so-called Yarkovsky effect. Over extended periods of time, space rocks such as asteroids absorb and radiate enough momentum-carrying light to gently shift their orbits, earning the name of the 19th-century engineer who initially proposed it. As a result, quantifying the Yarkovsky effect is critical for determining which asteroids pose a threat.
Space agencies all across the world are already planning how to deflect a dangerous asteroid if one ever comes our way. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft rammed the non-hazardous asteroid Dimorphos off course on September 26, 2022, changing the asteroid’s orbit by 32 minutes in the first test of Earth’s planetary defense system. NASA has since declared the project a resounding success. Additionally, you can also read about- 10 Most Important Events in Space History.
China has also indicated that it is in the early stages of designing an asteroid-redirect mission. Scientists seek to avoid a possibly catastrophic collision with our planet by launching 23 Long March 5 rockets into the asteroid Bennu, which will swing within 4.6 million miles (7.4 million km) of Earth’s orbit between the years 2175 and 2199.