Massive asteroid set to fly by Earth in April, but it won't hit us

Asteroid the size of Mount Everest set to fly by Earth next month that is ‘large enough to cause global effects’ if it collides with our planet – but experts say it is not expected to hit us

  • NASA discovered an asteroid in 1998 that is similar in size to Mount Everest
  • It will make a flyby of Earth next month, coming within 3,908,791 miles 
  • However, experts say it is not estimated that it will collide with Earth 

An asteroid the size of Mount Everest is heading towards Earth next month, but scientists say it is not expected to collide with us.

The object, called 52768 (1998 OR2), is 1 to 2.5 miles wide and will pass within 3,908,791 miles, moving at 19,461 miles per hour.

The asteroid was first discovered by NASA in 1998, and is said to be ‘large enough to cause global effects’ if it were to hit Earth.

The flyby is expected for Wednesday, April 29 at 4:56 AM ET, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies that tracks Near-Earth Objects (NEAT) that could collide with Earth.

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An asteroid the size of Mount Everest is heading toward Earth next month, but scientists say it is not expected to collide with us. The object, called 52768 (1998 OR2), is 1 to 2.5 miles wide and will pass within 3,908,791 miles, moving at 19,461 miles per hour (artist impression)

The discovery of 52768 came on the heels of NASA installing ‘new state-of-the-art computing and data analysis hardware that speeds our search for near-Earth objects,’ said NEAT Project Manager Dr. Steven Pravdo of JPL, in a statement.

The asteroid orbits the sun every 1,340 days, or 3.67 years and completes a rotation on its axis every 4.11 days, CNN first reported.

A different asteroid has made headlines this month when it was found to be orbiting Earth for the past three years.

NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey discovered a temporarily captured asteroid, called 2020 CD3, which has been orbiting our planet for three years.

A different asteroid has made headlines this month when it was found to be orbiting Earth for the past three years. NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey discovered a temporarily captured asteroid, called 2020 CD3, which has been orbiting our planet for three years (pictured) 

The tiny cosmic object is estimated to about six to 12 feet in diameter and has a surface brightness similar to C-type asteroids, which are carbon rich and very common.

This rare sighting is ‘big news’ due to the fact that there are more than a million known asteroids, but this is only the second one to orbit Earth.

The organization is based at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona and is focused on tracking and discovering near-Earth objects.

Their latest find, 2020 CD3, was seen in the night sky of February 15th by astronomers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne. 

The mini-moon was then spotted four times by February 17th, which was enough evidence for experts to confirm it is orbiting our planet.

‘BIG NEWS. Earth has a new temporarily captured object/Possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3. On the night of Feb. 15, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne and I found a 20th magnitude object,’ Wierzchos shared in a tweet on February 25th, after the Minor Planet Center, a branch of the International Astronomical Union classified the asteroid as a temporarily captured object.

The team has compared its size to that of a washing machine and believes it has been circling Earth for about three years, based on orbital trajectory calculations.

The last mini-moon to appear in Earth’s gravity was last year and it fell from the sky over Australia.

The fireball was first spotted by Australia’s Desert Fireball Network in August 2016 and at the time astronomers thought it was a normal meteor.

The DN160822_03 fireball – pictured – was spotted flying over the Australian sky in 2016 but it wasn’t confirmed as a mini-moon until 2019

Researchers studying its trajectory say the fireball, called DN160822_03, actually circled the Earth before losing orbit, making it a mini-moon.

Only one other mini-moon has ever been observed with a telescope and it orbited the Earth for 11 months before flying off into space.

In 2006, the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey discovered a mini-moon about the size of a car. Known as 2006 RH120, it orbited Earth for less than a year after its discovery, then resumed orbiting the Sun.

Our Moon, walked on by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and others from the Apollo missions, is 2,000-miles in diameter and has orbited the Earth for four billion years.

In contrast a mini-moon is thought to be a few feet across and only orbits the planet for less than a year before resuming its life as an asteroid or falling to Earth as a meteor fireball.

Although the discovery is being celebrated, this is only the second mini-moon to orbit Earth, one expert believes the object may be human-made space debris due to the fact it has high reflectivity.

Grigori Fedorets, the lead astronomer for the observations, explained the object could be a rare natural rocky object, or it could be something humans put into space decades ago — essentially space debris.

Additional observations to refine its position will help us determine this mystery object’s orbit and its possible origin,’ said Fedorets, adding that its reflectivity is also an important characteristic, as rocky bodies tend to have relatively low reflectivity compared to things like spent rocket boosters.

 

 

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