NASA clocks Asteroid 2023 PX at 27252 kmph and it is hurtling towards Earth
An Aten group asteroid is expected to make its closest approach to Earth today, August 15. According to details revealed by NASA, it is already hurtling towards the planet and will pass by very closely!
Asteroids are space rocks mostly present in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Since these bodies are so far, how do NASA and other space agencies track them? Sometimes, interaction with a planet's gravitational field knocks these asteroids off their trajectories and sends them towards a planet like Earth for potential impact. When NASA's telescopes track a new Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), astronomers measure the asteroid's observed positions in the sky and report them to the Minor Planet Center. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) then uses that data to determine the asteroid's most likely orbit around the Sun, according to NASA.
NASA has revealed details such as the speed, distance, size, and more of the asteroid that will come close to Earth today.
Asteroid 2023 PX details
The asteroid, given the designation of Asteroid 2023 PX, is on its way towards Earth today, August 15. The asteroid was spotted by NASA's Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), which is responsible for monitoring the skies and keeping a watch on various Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). The most concerning asteroid of this asteroid is its size. While it isn't big enough to be called a planet killer, Asteroid 2023 PX is almost 100 feet wide, which makes it as big as an aircraft!
It is speeding towards the planet at a blistering speed of 27252 kilometers per hour and will pass the planet at a distance of about 4.9 million kilometers, putting it in the category of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).
The space agency has also revealed that Asteroid 2023 NP 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.
These asteroids have an orbital period of less than one year and spend most of their time hidden by the Sun.
Previous asteroid impacts on Earth
Although asteroids have been safely passing near Earth these past few months, it doesn't mean a collision with Earth isn't on the cards. In fact, an asteroid was the reason behind the extinction of one of the largest species on the planet nearly 65 million years ago – dinosaurs.
According to the Alvarez hypothesis, the extinction was caused by a massive asteroid that crashed on Earth more than 65 million years ago. The asteroid terraformed the planet and is likely the reason that started the extinction of dinosaurs. Scientists have even found the impact crater of the asteroid in Chicxulub, near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
And a few years ago, the Chelyabinsk incident happened, and much before that, the Tunguska event. The largest asteroid to hit Earth was around 2 billion years ago and it left behind the Vredefort crater near Johannesburg. These close calls serve as a reminder to consistently keep an eye on these ancient space rocks for potential impacts which could change the course of history.
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