Quite frequently, astronomers detect asteroids that may, in the future, travel quite close to our planet, and some that are even posing a danger to Earth and humanity. NASA has announced yet another asteroid news, with the space rock dubbed 2020 AB2 said to come at close proximity of Earth, and fly past the planet on Sunday, January 12th.
The 2020 AB2 space rock is traveling at a stunning 7.9 kilometers (4.9 miles) per second, and 28,440 kilometers (17,671 miles) per hour. With a size of 15 meters (49 feet), the space rock is about as long as a bus, and three times as tall.
At its closest point, the asteroid will register only 0.011 au (astronomical units) away from our planet. One au (149,598,000 kilometers/92,955,887 miles) is the distance between Earth and the Sun; therefore the AB2 asteroid will get 1,645,576 kilometers (1,022,513 miles) from us.
Even though this may appear to be a rather long distance, it is sufficiently close for NASA to back down and observe the rock. The space agency has labeled 2020 AB2 as a Near-Earth Object (NEO), which allows them to assay the background of the Solar System.
NASA wrote on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”
Being 15 meters (49 feet) long, the space rock reminds astronomers about the Chelyabinsk meteor. Back in 2013, a 20-meter (65 feet) meteor blew off over Chelyabinsk in Russia, breaking windows and harming more than 1,000 people.
Specialists had not seen the incident coming, which makes them fear that Earth could be surprised by a more damaging asteroid collision in the future. Even though the possibility of a massive asteroid crashing into Earth are small, as NASA suggests there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a cosmic rock which could damage a rather big region will hit, the disastrous outcome is not entirely impossible.
This is the reason behind multiple plans on the works, which could help Earth avoid such a collision. NASA is, at the moment, analyzing asteroid Bennu, with its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that was sent to the asteroid’s surface last year.
Part of the reason the space company is sending the spacecraft there is to collect more data about the cosmic rock, which is 500 meters (1,640 feet) in length. NASA is concerned that the asteroid, which has the capacity to destroy a country on Earth, could collide with our planet in the next 120 years.