An asteroid is racing towards Earth’s orbit at an incredible speed of 11.20 kilometers per second.
The space rock is officially known as ‘2020 UL3’ and is estimated to be 53 to 130m in size, larger than the Sydney Opera House.
UL3 is an Apollo asteroid according to NASA, which is an asteroid that passes through Earth’s orbit as it passes through space.
NASA also claims that it is a Near Earth Object (NEO) describing objects (asteroids and comets) powered by the gravitational pull of nearby planets.
An object must be within 1.3 astronomical units to be classified as NEO.
There is a good chance that UL3 will come even closer in a few years. Sky Live reports November 14, 2089, will whiz past the Earth within 250,961 kilometers.
The good news is that you don’t need to lose sleep worrying about being blown away by an asteroid. The only impact it could have is a slight change in weather systems.
The asteroid Aphophis
Scientists also have their eyes on the asteroid Apophis which is getting faster and faster as it makes its way to Earth according to researchers from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy.
Officially it is now under the Yarkovsky effect, which means that some parts of the asteroid are heating up faster than other parts.
“Before the detection of Yarkovsky’s acceleration on Apophis, astronomers had concluded that a potential impact with the Earth in 2068 was impossible. The detection of this effect acting on Apophis means that the 2068 impact scenario is still a possibility, “reports the University.
But Earth will first have a long-range date with the 330-meter-wide asteroid in 2029.
“We have known for a long time that an impact with the Earth is not possible during the close approach of 2029,” said Dave Tholen, who has carefully tracked Apophis’ movement in the sky since his team discovered it in 2004. ” New observations we got with the Subaru telescope earlier this year were good enough to reveal Apophis’ Yarkovsky acceleration, and show that the asteroid is moving away from a purely gravitational orbit of about 170 meters to year, which is enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario in play. “
The giant space rock is appropriately codenamed 99942 Apophis, the Greek name for an Egyptian serpent god bent on swallowing the sun. (For the record, it’s also the name of a “Stargate-SG1” character with a similar motivation.)
There is no need to freak out. Apophis will miss Earth by a good 31,000 km in 2029. However, its size and relatively close distance to Earth mean its flyby will be a special time for astronomers and other scientists.
“Apophis’ close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a NASA statement. According to NASA, it is relatively rare for such a large object to pass this close to Earth.
“We will observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes,” Brozović said. “With radar observations, we may be able to see surface details as small as a few meters.”
Indeed, Apophis can even be visible to the naked eye as a bright spot of light.
“As the asteroid crosses the Atlantic Ocean, its path briefly changes from red to gray, this is the closest moment of approach,” explains a NASA predictive model. “After the closest approach, the asteroid will move into the daytime sky and will no longer be visible.”
For ordinary civilians who have even a fleeting fear of being decimated by space debris, it is very comforting to know that the scientific community is genuinely excited about the arrival of a huge rock named after a god of death.
It appears that Apophis may indeed be a generous god and provide scientists with a lot of information on what to do if a more dangerous near-Earth object ever comes our way.
“Apophis is a representative of approximately 2,000 currently known potentially dangerous asteroids (PHAs),” Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies, said in the release. “By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense.”
The Unversity of Hawaii says observations are underway to refine the magnitude of the Yarkovksy effect and how it affects Apophis’ orbit. Astronomers will know well before 2068 if there is any possibility of impact.
– with CNN