NASA is currently observing a 230-kilometer (142 miles) asteroid, known as 2009 JF1, as experts suggested the space rock could hit Earth in 2022. The asteroid is approximately the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and it poses a severe threat to our planet and, ultimately, humanity.
JF1 is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), a list composed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The labeling implies the space rock orbits the Sun and has a trajectory that’s extremely close to Earth, causing concern.
Earth is at Stake
A number of cosmic objects and comets follow orbital trajectories that make them approach the Sun and, therefore, Earth, at a relatively close distance. In the case of a comet or asteroid coming closer to our planet, it is considered a NEO.
JF1 was first discovered back in 2009 by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hence its name. The lab has been observing the asteroid for almost a decade, using a robotized tool known as Sentry.
Another robotized framework, named Guard, is also used by NASA to check and constantly observe the closest space rocks in case one of them might pose a threat to Earth. The observations can predict the asteroid’s trajectories for the next 100 years.
According to NASA, if one of those rocks would hit Earth, the damage would be equivalent to exploding 230 kilotonnes of TNT. Such a catastrophic explosion would overpower the disaster Hiroshima encountered in 1945, which reached the power of 15 kilotonnes of TNT.
More massive NEOs, measuring over 140 meters (91 miles), can manage severe harm if they would collide with our planet. Fortunately, these types of space rocks are easier to spot and observe than smaller NEOs.
To avoid a future impact, space agencies and numerous organizations all over the world are brainstorming approaches that would help them deflect asteroids out of their trajectory if too close to Earth.
Deflecting Asteroids’ Trajectory
A crucial diversion is currently being considered, along with a future demonstration that acts as a reportedly attainable strategy to guard the planet. The project is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA); it will consist of a deflection of the small mate in a double asteroid.
In the main stage of the project, a probe will collide with the asteroid. While the spacecraft makes the crucial move, a satellite will image and observe the collision, while collecting all the information it can possibly get on the impacts of the blow. The program is called HERA and is conducted by ESA.
NASA is currently working on a project called Double Asteroid Impact Test, while Italy is preparing to launch a CubeSat that will record everything.
On another note, current insights show that the chance of JF1 hitting our planet is pretty low: considering the asteroid’s measurements and the speed at which it travels, the possibility of a collision is extremely unlikely.
According to NASA, there is a one at 3,800 chances the space object will hit the Earth on May the 6th of 2022. That converts into a 0.026 percent probability.