Asteroid threat looms as NASA tracks 200-foot space rock hurtling towards Earth
An Aten group asteroid could be making its closest approach to Earth today, July 10, and it possesses potential destructive capabilities due to its massive size. Know details.
NASA has carried out several missions to asteroids in space to date, but perhaps its DART Test might be the most important of them. It was the space agency's first planetary defense test which it carried out by smashing a spacecraft into an oncoming asteroid to deflect it off its course. The $330 million venture proved to be a success as the target asteroid named Dimorphos deflected off its path. Although NASA experts claim that no asteroid is expected to impact Earth for at least the next 100 years, countermeasures for planetary defense are important as they can help prevent the loss of life in case any asteroid strays towards Earth.
In a similar event, NASA has issued a warning that an asteroid will come extremely close to Earth but is not expected to hit the planet. Know details.
Asteroid 2023 LN1 details
NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has revealed details about the asteroid such as its speed, distance of approach, and size. Designated as Asteroid 2023 LN1, it is expected to make its closest approach to Earth today, July 10, at a distance of 6.8 million kilometers. Although this distance might seem a lot, it is relatively a small number in astronomical distances, considering how big the asteroid is.
Asteroid 2023 LN1 is currently travelling towards Earth at a blistering speed of 20847 kilometers per hour, which is much faster than even the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)!
Although this asteroid is not a planet killer, it still possesses potential destructive capabilities owing to its massive size. As per NASA estimates, Asteroid 2023 LN1 is approximately 200 feet wide, which makes it almost as big as an aircraft! It belongs to the Aten group of asteroids, which are Earth-crossing Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) with semi-major axes smaller than Earth's. They are named after the asteroid 2062 Aten and the first of its kind was discovered by American astronomer Eleanor Helin at Palomar Observatory on January 7, 1976.
About NASA's DART Test
The aim of the Double Asteroid Detection Test or DART test was to smash a spacecraft into the Dimorphos asteroid to deflect it away from its path. According to NASA, Dimorphos is an asteroid moonlet just 530 feet in width, which orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos, nearly 5 times its size.
It took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit the larger asteroid Didymos. Astronomers studied the collision data using various telescopes and revealed that the orbit time was reduced by almost 32 minutes. The studies were conducted with the help of various images captured by the spacecraft's camera named cubeSAT LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) which is made up of two key components, LUKE (LICIACube Unit Key Explorer) and LEIA (LICIACube Explorer Imaging for Asteroid), both of which captured key data from the collision.
ESA's Hera spacecraft observed the result of the collision and reported the findings for further study.
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