NASA Keeping Eye On Near Earth Asteroid Scheduled To Fly By Earth Tomorrow
September looks set to be an interesting month for stargazers, with NASA reportedly keeping an eye on a 37 metre-long asteroid, set to whizz past Earth tomorrow.
On September 8, 2020, at approximately 11.54am EDT, a near-Earth object known as 2020 PT4 will pass by our planet at speeds of 28,090 miles per hour (12.56 kilometres per second).
The object measures in at between 91 to 204 feet (28 to 62 meters) across, and will skim past the Earth at lunar distances between 4.9 and 5.0 (nominally 4.9).
The speed 2020 PT4 is travelling at means it could travel from the UK to New York more than eight times in the space of an hour, the Daily Express reports.
NASA has described 2020 PT4 as being a near-Earth object (NEO), bringing an ideal opportunity for astronomers to study our solar system.
According to NASA, asteroids – which are sometimes referred to as minor planets – are ‘rocky, airless remnants’ left over from when our solar system emerged some 4.6 billion years ago.
Currently, the known asteroid count is 994,398, with the majority of the space rubble orbiting the sun found within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with the total mass of all asteroids combined being less than that of Earth’s Moon.
Asteroids vary in size, with Vesta being the largest with an approximate diameter of 329 miles (530 kilometres). Some are relatively small, at less than 33 feet (10 meters) across.
NEOs have orbits which pass near to that of Earth, with asteroids which actually cross Earth’s orbital path referred to as ‘Earth-crossers’.
As of June 19, 2013, there were 10,003 known near-Earth asteroids, with those measuring over one kilometre in diameter thought to be 861. Some 1,409 are classed as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), meaning they could pose a threat to Earth.
On September 6, an asteroid known as (465824) 2010 FR, made a close approach to our planet, measuring in at a gigantic 162 metres in diameter.
Fortunately, 2010 FR passed by at a close distance of over 7.5 million kilometres from our home planet, but researchers at the Virtual Telescope Project were still able to take some interesting pictures.
According to the Virtual Telescope Project:
The telescope carefully tracked the apparent motion of the asteroid, so stars result in long trails, while the asteroid looks like a sharp dot of light in the centre of the image. It is marked by an arrow.
The Full Moon was not far in the sky, so the image was taken under less-than-ideal conditions: despite this, asteroid 2010 FR is well visible.
At the imaging time, asteroid (465824) 2010 FR was at about 7.8 millions of km from the Earth and it was slowly approaching us.
Although the asteroid passed by at a distance equivalent to 19 times the distance between Planet Earth and the Moon, NASA still classed it as being ‘potentially hazardous’.
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CreditsNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and 2 others
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Science Solar System Exploration
Virtual Telescope Project