A massive asteroid is set to streak past Earth on Thursday. Don’t worry there is no chance of a collision!
The space rock, which is estimated to be about three times the length of a football field will fly past the distance of about 6.7 million kilometers from Earth tomorrow (June 27).
Dubbed 2008 KV2, the asteroid will be observed by NASA as it gets close.
‘Close’ in space terms is still really far away, the moon is about 384,400 km away from us, and the asteroid will be more than 17 times that distance. As its name suggests 2008 KV2, was discovered in 2008.
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It isn’t a one time visitor though.
The asteroid is also orbiting the sun which means it will pass by Earth again in 2021 and twice in 2022.
2008 KV2 is classified as a Near Earth Object or NEO. To get this NASA-derived label you need to be a space rock that ‘can pass within about million kilometers of Earth's orbit.’
Despite still being extremely far away, 2008 KV2 is labeled as a "potentially hazardous asteroid," according to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at JPL. This is mainly due to its unusually large size and relatively close passing.
The rock is passing with 0.05 astronomical units (AU) of Earth, where one AU is equal to the average distance between the Earth and the sun. The space rock isn’t going to be around for observation log, it will travel past earth at around 40,800 km/h.
Asteroids on NASA's radar
Asteroids have been a hot topic for NASA in the last 12 months. Back in April, scientists came together for the Planetary Defense Conference to discuss strategies for tracking and analyzing NEOs.
On the top of their list is a huge asteroid named Apophis that is set to zip past Earth on April 13, 2029.
“We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis' orbit, but our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches," said Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JPL's Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), who co-chaired the April 30 conference session on Apophis with Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). Apophis is so big and will be so close to earth that it will be possible to see with the naked eye.
Observers on Earth will see a moving point of light, the first to spot it will be those located on the East coast of Australia, it will travel west across the Indian Ocean, then across Africa. It will be at its closest point just before 6 p.m. EDT when Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean. It will move so fast that it can cross the Atlantic in about an hour.