An asteroid over twice the size of a dinosaur will have a close flyby on Tuesday, according to NASA’s asteroid tracker. The asteroid, designated 2022 PW, is currently heading in the direction of Earth.
According to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the asteroid will pass by at 7.47 km/second (26,892 km/hour) — roughly equal to 22 times the speed of sound.
However, the asteroid will pass the Earth at an approximate distance of 529,000 kilometres — on average, the Moon orbits the Earth at 384,000 kilometres, meaning that asteroid 2022 PW will fly by at a distance farther than the Moon. However, on a cosmic scale, it will still be very close. The next flyby asteroid 2022 PW will occur on February 05, 2031.
Tuesday will also witness another asteroid, 2022 PJ1, flying by at 4.23 million kilometres at a speed of 6 km/second or 21,600 km/hour. Asteroid 2022 PJ1’s next close approach will occur on August 4, 2025. On that day, it will fly by at a distance of 18.86 million kilometres. The asteroid’s size is estimated to be between 14 and 32 metres or a decent-sized house.
While both the asteroids are not potentially hazardous, there are others that could threaten the Earth. In mid-March, asteroid 2022 EB5, around half the size of a giraffe, hit the Earth — but caused no damage.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Center for Near-Earth Object Studies operates Sentry, an automated impact prediction system for asteroids. Sentry continuously monitors asteroids for the likelihood of future impact and has declared the Earth free of any risk of catastrophic asteroid impact over the next century.
NEXT ASTEROID TO HIT EARTH
One of the most dangerous asteroids for Earth at present is Bennu, a 500-metre-wide asteroid. If this asteroid hit the Earth, the result would be catastrophic — but, according to NASA, this won’t happen for a long time, if at all.
WAYS TO STOP AN ASTEROID FROM HITTING EARTH
At present, the most promising of the Earth’s efforts to prevent asteroids from hitting the planet is NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission — a small specially-designed spacecraft that will slam into an asteroid to possibly alter its orbit.