‘Potentially hazardous’ asteroid to pass Earth on April Fools Day

NASA test planetary defence spacecraft to divert asteroid's path

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While this is no joke, astronomers have assured that there is no need to panic. That is because the giant rock, dubbed the 2007 FF, will zoom past from a comfortable distance of 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometres). This is around 19 times the distance between The moon and the Earth. The asteroid is expected to come within this distance at 20:35 GMT.

Scientists at the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) have managed to snap an image of the approaching asteroid.

It was captured using at a distance of about 7.2 million miles away from Earth.

VTP founder Gianluca Masi wrote: “This about 200 meters large asteroid will reach its minimum distance from us on April 1 at 21:35 UTC.

“Of course, there are no risks at all for our planet.”

2007 FF1 is what is known as an Apollo-class asteroid.

The orbit of these asteroids around the sun, which lasts 684 days, coincides with Earth’s orbit

There are some 15,000 that have been discovered in space so far.

While this sounds like a lifetime away, it has been added to NASA’s “Close Approaches” database.

Occasionally, asteroids can also make “close approaches” to Earth, but this does not mean they are going to strike.

Most of these objects steer well clear of Earth, with most having their orbits tracked hundreds of years in advance.

The Planetary Defence Coordination Office (PDCO) at NASA monitors activity in the cosmos to find, track, and keep tabs on near-Earth objects.

Right now, astronomers track around 2,000 asteroids, comets and other objects that whiz through space and could potentially collide with Earth.

In January, a space rock dubbed 7482 (1994 PC1), which was over a kilometre wide at an astonishing 1,052m (3,451ft), safely zipped past the Earth.

This monumental size is larger than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the biggest building on the planet at 830m (2,723ft).

The rock flew past at a distance of 1.2 million miles away on Tuesday, January 18.

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NASA has also been testing ways to protect the Earth from potentially hazardous asteroid collisions.

Back in November, the agency launched $330million (£241.79million) Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) probe.

The plan is to crash a robot spacecraft into the Dimorphos asteroid at 15,000 mph to change its path.

NASA says that a successful mission will mean that the Earth could be saved from a future doomsday situation if an Armageddon-style asteroid on a collision course with our planet.

Kelly Fast, at NASA’s PDCO said: “Dart will only be changing the period of the orbit of Dimorphos by a tiny amount.

“And really that’s all that’s needed in the event that an asteroid is discovered well ahead of time.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, we’ve got to get out to Dimorphos, but this is a huge step along the way.”

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