Whenever the news regarding an asteroid zipping past our planet pops up, people start to panic and soon after, social media networks are flooded with posts warning about the imminent end of our days. However, this time, there is no reason to worry. Despite the fact that this upcoming close encounter with an asteroid means that the space rock will approach our planet less than one-fifth the distance of Earth to the Moon, it will safely pass by without impact.
The second asteroid this week, it will zip past our planet this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time (5:30 p.m. EST). According to the scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, there is absolutely no chance that the asteroid will impact our planet. Originally it was spotted on Sunday, thanks to the Catalina Sky Survey which has a series of three telescopes, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson.
According to the astronomers, our planet will have a close encounter with an asteroid which is between 50 and 130 feet wide. It may well be larger compared to the asteroid which entered Earth’s atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russia that nearly slammed into the ground in 2013.
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In its closest approach, the asteroid is expected to reach within 39,000 miles from Earth. To make a comparison, the moon is 238,900 miles away on average. The asteroid is called 2018 CB.
Surprisingly, it is not the first asteroid to pass by this week. Another asteroid passed by on Tuesday at 12:10 p.m. Pacific. It was called 2018 CC but it didn’t approach as near as 2018 CB will. Scientists conducted calculations on its closest approach and it was a distance of 114,000 miles from Earth, about half way between Earth and the moon. This asteroid didn’t surprise astronomers too much. According to Space.com they have known about it since it was initially discovered in 2002. It measures from 0.3 miles to 0.75 miles across.
Another asteroid also zipped by on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 4. Asteroid 2002 AJ129 approached the planet at a distance of 2.6 million miles away, which is 10 times the distance to the moon.
Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for New-Earth Object Studies at NASA, said in a press release that asteroids the size of 2018 CB don’t approach our planet very often.
“Maybe only once or twice a year,” he was quoted in a press release. “Although 2018 CB is quite small, it might well be larger than the asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, almost exactly five years ago, in 2013.”
The Planetary Defense Coordination Office of NASA is regularly working on searching and tracking asteroids that could potentially pose danger for our planet. They are using several partner telescopes for this cause.
They are regularly updating their database with all newly discovered objects that could potentially harm the planet. The space agency hadn’t yet announced that they discovered any object that could be a threat. All asteroid findings are published online at the Small-Body Database Browser which is available online for free.
Additionally, the space agency has several ongoing missions in space that concern asteroid. Those missions have been created to learn more about asteroids and how they are formed.