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Bridge-sized asteroid to come as close as 5.5mn km to Earth, reveals NASA

A Near-Earth Asteroid which is bigger than the Empire State Building is predicted to pass Earth closely today, December 6. Know the asteroid’s speed, distance of approach, size, and other details, as per NASA.

Updated on: Dec 06 2023, 10:12 IST
The bridge-sized asteroid will pass Earth by a close margin today, NASA has revealed. (Pixabay)
The bridge-sized asteroid will pass Earth by a close margin today, NASA has revealed. (Pixabay)

Telescopes such as NEOWISE, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Pans-STARRS1, and Catalina Sky Survey help NASA track and study asteroids that are present in space. After studying the data, the US space agency has shed light on an asteroid that is expected to pass Earth by a close margin today, December 6. This asteroid is colossal in size! Know all about the close encounter with the Asteroid 2001 QQ142.

Asteroid 2001 QQ142: Details of close approach

This Near-Earth space rock, designated Asteroid 2001 QQ142 by NASA, is expected to pass the planet at a distance of approximately 5.5 million kilometers today. It is travelling around the Sun in its orbit and is approaching Earth at a speed of 23975 kilometers per hour, which is much faster than Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)!

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According to NASA, it belongs to the Apollo group of Near-Earth Asteroids, which are Earth-crossing space rocks with semi-major axes larger than Earth's. These asteroids are named after the humongous 1862 Apollo asteroid, discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s.

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How big is the asteroid?

In terms of size, Asteroid 2001 QQ142 is nearly 2200 feet wide, and is comparable in size to a colossal bridge! It is even bigger than the iconic Empire State Building! As per NASA, this asteroid has been designated as a Potentially Hazardous Object by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). This means its massive size, along with the close distance of approach, could potentially threaten Earth and could cause catastrophic damage if it is impacted.

Shockingly, this will not be Asteroid 2001 QQ142’s first-ever close approach to Earth. It passed Earth for the first time ever on August 1, 1901, when it flew past the planet at a distance of 72 million kilometers. After today, this space rock will again pass the planet on January 18, 2029, at a distance of 68 million kilometers.

Importance of studying asteroids

However, asteroids also pose a threat to the planet on occasion. These ancient space rocks have impacted Earth in the past and changed the course of history. More often than not, asteroids pass Earth at close but safe distances without ever touching the surface. However, it is still important to track them to minimize the uncertainties around their close approaches.

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First Published Date: 06 Dec, 10:11 IST