A small, bus-sized asteroid will make an extremely close approach to Earth on Thursday, July 7, passing just 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) – or about 23% of the average distance between Earth and the Moon. And just a few days ago nobody knew it was gonna happen
The asteroidnamed 2022 NF, should pass safely through our planet, according to NASA calculations Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Astronomers discovered the sneaky asteroid using data from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) – a system of cameras and telescopes based in Hawaii with the primary purpose of detecting near-Earth objects, or near-Earth objects. On July 4, researchers identified the object and calculated its approximate size and trajectory, estimating that the space rock was between 18 and 41 feet wide (5.5 meters and 12.5 meters) at its longest dimension. .
Related: Why do asteroids have such strange shapes?
Due to its small size, 2022 NF does not meet NASA’s criteria for a “potentially hazardous asteroid”, which typically must be at least 460 feet (140 meters) long and pass within 4.6 million miles. (7.5 million km) from Earth, according to Live Science’s sister site Space.com. While the newly detected asteroid will navigate well at this distance, it is far too small to be considered an existential threat to Earth.
Although the asteroid makes its closest approach to Earth on July 7, it will be visible to some telescopes from Wednesday (July 6); The Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the flyby of the asteroid from their telescope in Rome, beginning at 4:00 p.m. EDT (08:00 UTC). You can participate by clicking on the Virtual Telescope Project website here.
NASA and other space agencies keep a close eye on thousands of near-Earth objects like this. They rarely pose a threat to Earth, but some large asteroids could prove dangerous if their trajectories were to change.
In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will crash into the 525-foot-wide (160 m) asteroid Dimorphos in the fall of 2022. The collision will not will not destroy the asteroid, but it may change the orbital path of the space rock slightly, Live Science previously reported. The mission will help test the viability of asteroid deflection, in case a future asteroid poses an imminent threat to our planet.
Originally posted on Live Science.