Asteroid 2020 PN1's orbit will bring it close to Earth today! Close encounter in offing

Apollo-group Asteroid 2020 PN1 is set to make its closest approach to Earth today, and budding astronomers can help NASA track similar objects in space.

| Updated on: Aug 03 2023, 10:01 IST
5 asteroids hurtling towards Earth; Speed, size and more revealed by NASA
Asteroid 2020 PN1
1/5 Asteroid 2023 OW4 – Asteroid 2023 OW4 will make its extremely close approach to the planet tomorrow, August 3. The asteroid, with a width of just 31 feet, will approach at a distance of 565,000 kilometers and a speed of nearly 34865 kilometers per hour.  (Pixabay)
Asteroid 2020 PN1
2/5 Asteroid 2020 PN1 - Asteroid 2020 PN1 is another space rock that is currently heading towards Earth and will pass by Earth tomorrow, August 3. The asteroid is almost 90 feet wide, travelling at almost 17425 kilometers per hour while making its closest approach at 4.1 million kilometers.  (Pixabay)
Asteroid 2020 PN1
3/5 Asteroid 2014 QL433 – The biggest of them all, Asteroid 2014 QL433, with a staggering width of nearly 1200 feet, will make its closest approach to Earth on August 4. The space rock is already rushing towards Earth at a speed of 74246 kilometers per hour and will miss the planet by a distance of 5.3 million kilometers. (Pixabay)
Asteroid 2020 PN1
4/5 Asteroid 2023 OR5 – Asteroid 2023 OR5, which is almost 120 feet wide, is heading for Earth and will make a close approach on August 4. This asteroid is heading for Earth at a blistering speed of 26847 kilometers per hour. It will miss Earth at a close distance of 2.8 million kilometers. (Pixabay)
Asteroid 2020 PN1
5/5 Asteroid 2023 OQ – Asteroid 2023 OQ will make its closest approach to Earth on August 6. In terms of size, it is almost 500 feet wide. As per NASA, it will come as close as 3.8 million kilometers and is already moving at a breakneck speed of 76763 kilometers per hour (Pixabay)
Asteroid 2020 PN1
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Asteroid 2020 PN1 belongs to the Apollo group of Near-Earth Asteroids. (NASA JPL)

If asteroids are located millions of kilometers away in space, then why do we need to track them? According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), asteroids, which are ancient space rocks, present a potential threat of collision with Earth and they can help discover secrets of space that have been hidden from us. While most of them are located in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, they often make close approaches to Earth, passing the planet at close distances.

This can happen if an asteroid gets knocked off course, affected by a large planet's gravitational pull. Their orbits can also bring them extremely close to Earth, making it imperative to study and track them.

NASA has now tracked an asteroid whose orbit will bring it close to Earth today, August 3. Know details of this close encounter.

Asteroid 2020 PN1

NASA keeps an eye on asteroids, comets, and other Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) for potential close approaches that could threaten Earth. The space agency has issued a warning against an asteroid that will come extremely close to Earth today, August 3. As per the details, the asteroid, given the designation Asteroid 2020 PN1, will pass Earth at as close as approximately 4.1 million kilometers. While this asteroid is not a planet killer, it is still huge, with an estimated width of 90 feet. That makes it almost as big as an aircraft!

Not only will the asteroid pass Earth very closely, but it is also hurtling towards us at blistering speed. NASA has revealed that Asteroid 2020 PN1 is approaching Earth at a breakneck velocity of 17425 kilometers per hour.

Other details

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.

How you can help NASA track asteroids

If you're a budding astronomer and want to be an asteroid hunter, you can help NASA discover and track asteroids in space! NASA's new Daily Minor Planet Project allows astronomers and skywatchers to help discover new asteroids and track them in data sets. To capture asteroids, the Daily Minor Project uses the NASA-funded, University of Arizona-based Catalina Sky Survey which captures nearly 1000 images every night. Due to this volume, NASA scientists fall short of personnel to study these images.

According to NASA, “You'll decide if the specks of light in the images look like genuine celestial bodies or, instead, are false detections resulting from inconveniently timed "twinkles" of the star-studded background.” After looking at the image, you just have to click on a yes or a no button and add a comment if necessary, before moving on to the next shot.

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First Published Date: 03 Aug, 09:51 IST