The asteroid, known as 2011, measures 49 meters (160 foot) and has been deemed “potentially hazardous” by NASA. The space rock will pass at close proximity on September 1 at a distance of 71,805km – just one-fifth of the distance between us and the Moon (384,399km) – according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The asteroid will zoom by Earth at a staggering speed of 29,375kph – although it will pass our planet safely.
Even in the extremely minute chance it would hit Earth, at 49 metres it would not pose a significant threat, causing a similar explosion to the Chelyabinsk incident.
In 2013, a 20-metre meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, smashing windows and caused injuries to more than 1,000 people.
But despite its small size, NASA has described the coming space rock as a “potentially hazardous asteroid”.
The space agency said: “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.”
It is also a Near Earth Object (NEO), giving NASA the perfect opportunity to study the history of the solar system.
NASA set on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”
While the chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – the devastating prospect is not impossible.
This is why there are now plans in the pipeline which could help Earth from asteroids.
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NASA is currently studying Asteroid Bennu, where its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft arrived last year.
Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length.
NASA fears the asteroid, which has the potential to wipe out a country on Earth, could hit our planet within the next 120 years, with the next close flyby in 2135.
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