Two asteroids will today make what is known as a near-Earth approach. And asteroid experts at NASA have revealed some surprising statistics about 2020 RH6 and 2020 RQ3.
2020 RH6 is the first of the pair to make what is technically known as a “close approach”.
This will see the asteroid come within 0.03174 Astronomical Units (AU) (2,950,417 miles) of our planet.
And although this may at first glance appear a huge distance, this is actually relatively close, given the infinite scale of space.
NASA’s NEO Earth Close Approach site also estimates asteroid 2020 RH6 is barrelling through space at 8.32km/s (18,611mph).
And the space rock may be up to 200ft (60m) in size, which is big enough to cause significant damage, were it to slam into a city – which it is certainly not about to do.
The second space rock is arguably of even more interest, as it is set to make an even closer approach than RH6.
At its closest, asteroid 2020 RQ3 is going to get approximately twice as close as its predecessor – 0.01586 AU (1,474,279 miles).
The asteroid is 147ft (54m) in diameter and hurtling through space at far faster speeds – 25.42km/s (56,862mph).
Astronomers at NASA are currently keeping an eye on approximately 2,000 asteroids, comets and other objects in Earth’s cosmic neighbourhood.
Near-Earth Objects (NEO) describe “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,” NASA said in a statement.
Although our planet has not witnessed an asteroid of apocalyptic proportions since the one that destroyed the dinosaurs 66million years ago, astronomers now recognise the need to keep a careful watch out for them.
Despite the overwhelming majority of asteroids incinerating in Earth’s atmosphere, exceptional circumstances can see rogue space rocks causing problems.
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The most recent of these events was the Chelyabinsk meteor – a so-called super-bolide that entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia in February 2013.
But although it blew up above ground, it still managed to damage approximately 7,200 buildings and injure more than 1,000 locals.
As a result, NASA and other space agencies take planetary defence extremely seriously.
NASA revealed how it intends to mitigate the rare but real danger posed by an asteroid in a statement.
They said: “The Planetary Defense Coordination Office [PDCO] sponsors studies of technologies and techniques for deflecting an asteroid off a predicted impact course with Earth.
“It is developing missions to demonstrate those technologies and determine their effectiveness in the event that these techniques must be utilised against a predicted asteroid impact threat.”
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