There’s a massive, “potentially hazardous” asteroid that will fly close to Earth on February 4. Fortunately, astronomers say that there’s nothing to worry about.
This asteroid is huge, but harmless.
Standing at 829.8 meters tall, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest building in the world since 2008. An approaching asteroid named 2002 AJ129, however, measures a little over a kilometer across. It’s set to fly by Earth at a speed of about 108,000 kilometers per hour and pass within 10 times the distance of the Earth and the moon, which is about 4.2 million kilometers. It was first spotted by astronomers in 2002, and they’ve been tracking the object since. Thus, this particularly close call with the asteroid isn’t a surprise to scientists.
The most important question, of course, is whether or not the asteroid poses a threat to Earth. After all, something as big as 2002 AJ129 can do quite the damage if it ever does get on a collision course.
There are 17,460 near-Earth asteroids that linger without posing too much of a threat on us. [Image via Shutterstock]
Fortunately, NASA astronomers say that that the asteroid will not collide with Earth during its approach. "Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance—zero—of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or any time over the next 100 year," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth-Object Studies in a statement. If that’s the case, however, why is the asteroid considered to be “potentially hazardous”?
It turns out that this designation is actually automatic for any asteroid that’s bigger than 140 meters in diameter. Since 2002 AJ129 measures over a kilometer across, it’s definitely qualified to be classed as “potentially hazardous”. Then again, however, scientists are absolutely sure that we have nothing to worry about.
When objects the size of 2002 AJ129 come close to Earth, it’s usually made to be something of a big deal, especially in the media. However, asteroids like this aren’t actually all that special, especially considering that objects of this size pass close to Earth on a regular basis. Two other space rocks even came significantly closer us just recently. If these objects aren’t reported on, we won’t even know that they just flew by at a distance that’s closer than usual.
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