A “potentially hazardous” asteroid the size of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, will zip by Earth tomorrow at 52,500 mph, NASA says.
The asteroid, called 2022 RM4, is expected to come as close as 0.01536 astronomical units, or about 1.4 million miles, to Earth at 18:26 GMT on Tuesday.
It is estimated to be up to 2,427 feet (740 meters) in diameter, which is almost as large as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (2,722 feet).
When 2022 RM4 flies past Earth, it will travel at a speed of 23.4 km per second or almost 52,500 miles per hour – about 65 times the speed of sound.
2022 RM4 is “potentially hazardous” because it comes within 4.65 million miles of Earth, although it is not expected to pose any danger to our planet.
The asteroid, called 2022 RM4, is estimated to be up to 2,427 feet (740 meters) in diameter, which is almost the size of the tallest building on Earth, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (2,722 feet)
When 2022 RM4 flies by Earth, it will travel at a speed of 23.4 km per second or almost 52,500 miles per hour – about 65 times the speed of sound (artist’s impression)
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPACE LADDER
One asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.
A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This garbage itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate in the atmosphere.
If one of these meteoroids reaches the Earth, it is called a meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.
Despite being about six times farther out than the Moon, the asteroid is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO) and is tracked by the space agency.
“NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been pushed by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood,” NASA said.
Composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system while most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is largely due to their status as relatively unchanged debris from the solar system’s formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.”
Although the 2022 RM4 will be at a distance of 1.4 million miles away, this is relatively close in astronomical terms.
Tony Dunn, an astronomer at San Francisco State University (SFSU), said: ‘2022 RM4 will pass less than six lunar distances on Tuesday.
“This is very close for an asteroid of this size.”
Dunn said 2022 RM4 is larger than the asteroid that created Meteor Crater in Arizona, about 50,000 years ago.
It’s also a giant compared to 2015 FF, which measures up to 92 feet in diameter (about the size of a blue whale) and passed Earth in August.
But 2022 RM4 is small compared to the 3,280-foot-wide ‘7482 (1994 PC1)’, an asteroid that approached Earth in January.
WHAT ARE NEAR-EARTH ASTEROIDS?
Near-Earth asteroids are rocky bodies that orbit the Sun on a path that brings them close to Earth’s orbit.
An asteroid is called a near-Earth asteroid (NEA) when its orbit brings it within 1.3 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun.
A single astronomical unit is the distance between the Sun and the Earth.
Almost all NEOs are near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), although there are also near-Earth comets (NECs).
The European Space Agency announced that more than 30,000 NEAs have now been discovered in the Solar System. On 31 October, the number is 30,400.
ESA claims that 1,425 of these NEAs have a “non-zero chance of impacting our planet” and are therefore under the “watchful eye” of a network of telescopes.
Of the total number, it is estimated that there are about 10,000 larger than 140 meters in diameter and 1,000 larger than 1 km in diameter – highlighting the need to keep track of these space rocks.
The first NEA ever discovered, called 433 Eros, has an average diameter of 16.8 km.
It was first discovered by German astronomer Carl Gustav Witt at the Berlin Observatory on August 13, 1898.
Known for its strange, elongated shape and rocky composition, 433 Eros’ orbit takes it to about 13.5 million miles from Earth—57 times the distance of the Moon.
Known for its strange elongated shape and rocky composition, 433 Eros’ orbit takes it to about 13.5 million miles from Earth – 57 times the distance of the Moon
It is estimated that there are about 10,000 NEAs larger than 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter. And there are also an estimated 1,000 NEOs larger than 3,280 feet (1 km) in diameter, demonstrating the need to keep track of these space rocks.
The largest NEA, called 1036 Ganymede – not to be confused with Jupiter’s moon of the same name – has a diameter of about 35 km.
“Thankfully, this giant body is known to always remain at a safe distance from Earth,” said Richard Moissl, Director of Planetary Defense at ESA.
The largest known asteroid in the entire solar system, Ceres, is 580 miles in diameter (more than 3 million feet)—large enough for humans to live on.
On average, Earth is hit by a football-field-sized rock every 5,000 years and a civilization-ending asteroid every million years, according to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program.
In an effort to address the threat posed by asteroids that may one day get a little too close for comfort, NASA formed a planetary defense program, which includes the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.
DART launched from California last November – and finally completed its 10-month journey when it hit the asteroid Dimorphos on September 26.
On September 26, DART slammed into Dimorphos, which orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos. Dimorphos is depicted here in scale with Rome’s Colosseum
Dimorphos, about 560 feet in diameter, orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos, both of which are about 6.8 million miles from our planet.
DART hit the space rock at more than 14,000 miles per hour and was destroyed on impact, while Dimorphos received a “little nudge” to change its trajectory by a fraction.
NASA announced earlier this month that the mission was a success, as the craft managed to shorten Dimorpho’s orbit by 32 minutes.
Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos poses any danger to the earth; rather, the $325m (£298m) mission was a rehearsal of what might be required if a space rock one day threatens our planet.
NASA’S DART MISSION CONSIDERED A MAJOR SUCCESS: CRAFT ATTEMPTED ASTEROID’S ORBIT
NASA’s DART mission, which plowed a spacecraft into a small asteroid 6.8 million miles from Earth, was a “huge success.”
Data published on October 11 revealed that the space rock’s orbit was successfully altered by the impact.
The planetary defense test, conducted on September 26, aimed to see if we could nudge the path of a massive asteroid heading straight for our planet.
This successful mission marks “humanity’s first time intentionally altering the motion of a celestial object and the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology,” NASA said.
Before the impact, Dimorphos took 11 hours and 55 minutes to circle its parent asteroid Didymos – but after the impact, its orbit is shortened by 32 minutes.
The initial goal was to shave off at least 10 minutes, so the results far exceeded this.
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