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Asteroid to make its closest pass to Earth in more than a century
Image by Virtual Telescope Project.
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Asteroid to make its closest pass to Earth in more than a century
by Mark Moran
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 02, 2024

A "potentially hazardous" asteroid the size of a football field will make its closest pass to Earth in more than a century this week, and it won't be this close again for another 200 years, officials announced Thursday.

Scientists say there is little to no danger in its passing.

The hunk of space rock will speed past our planet Friday at a distance of 1.77 million miles, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While the asteroid is cutting a relatively close path, it will still be more than seven times farther away than the moon is when it is orbiting Earth.

"The majority of near-Earth objects have orbits that don't bring them very close to Earth and, therefore, pose no risk of impact, but a small fraction of them - called potentially hazardous asteroids - require more attention," NASA said in a statement.

The asteroid, which is named 2008 OS7, measures just under 900 feet across and, when it speeds by Earth at about 1 p.m. EST Friday, it will be traveling at nearly 41,000 mph.

The Virtual Telescope Project will provide a live stream of the event.

Asteroids are left over from the formation of the solar system, which scientists say began about 4.6 billion years ago when a big cloud of gas and dust collapsed, according to NASA.

Scientists say that, when that occurred, most of the material fell to the center of the cloud and formed the sun, and some of the dust in the cloud became planets.

Asteroids are formed in different locations at different distances from the sun, so they are all different sizes and shapes. Neither are they round with smooth edges like planets, but have jagged and irregular shapes.

Often they are composed of rock, but some also are made up of clay or metals, such as nickel or iron.

2008 OS7, while respectable in size, is half the size of asteroid Bennu, which NASA was able to sample upon visiting it. It is 70 times smaller than the Vredefort meteor, which is the largest space rock known to have ever hit Earth, and was dubbed a "planet killer" like the one that decimated the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

While 2008 OS7 is not a threat to Earth, despite being labeled "potentially hazardous," it would wipe out an area the size of New York City if it were to make contact, JPL said.

NASA has identified about 25,000 potentially hazardous asteroids, although most are not as large as 2008 OS7. One of these deadly asteroids is expected to hit Earth every 20,000 years, Live Science previously reported.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
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