Two skyscraper-sized asteroids are heading toward Earth this weekend, with one approaching its closest point on Friday (July 29) and the other on Saturday (July 30).
Astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about 400 feet (122 meters) wide at its widest point, making it as wide as a 40-story building. An asteroid will safely miss our planet, passing from a distance of 1,740,000 miles (2,800,000 km) a land – or more than seven times the average distance between Earth and the moon. According to NASA, this space rock gets close to Earth every few years, and the next one is scheduled for January 2028.
Related: Why are asteroids and comets strange shapes? (Opens in a new tab)
On Saturday, a second, larger asteroid will pass through our planet, albeit at a greater distance from Earth. This asteroid, named 2013 CU83, is about 600 feet (183 meters) wide at its widest visible point, and will pass about 4,320,000 miles (6,960,000 km) from Earth, or about 18 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.
This massive space rock will travel at 13,153 mph (21,168 km/h) when it approaches Earth at 7:37 p.m. EDT (23:37 GMT).
Both of these close encounters are far beyond Asteroid 2022 NF (Opens in a new tab)which came within 56,000 miles (90,000 km) – or about 23% of the average distance between Earth and the Moon – on July 7.
NASA and other space agencies keep a close eye on thousands of NEOs like these. Even if the asteroid’s path places it millions of miles from our planet, there is a very small chance that the asteroid’s orbit will change slightly after interacting with gravity a larger body, such as a planet; Even such a tiny shift could put an asteroid on a collision course with Earth in a future flight.
As such, space agencies take planetary defense very seriously. In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid deflection spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will directly collide with the 525-foot-wide (160 m) asteroid Demorphos at Fall (Opens in a new tab) 2022. The collision will not destroy the asteroid, but it may. Changing the orbital path of a space rock (Opens in a new tab) Slightly, Live Science previously reported. The mission will help test the feasibility of asteroid deflection, if one of the future asteroids poses an imminent danger to our planet.
Originally published on Live Science.
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