Update: You can watch the asteroid flyby on the video above for yourself thanks to A Live broadcast From the Virtual Telescope Project, which will begin at 1:00 PM ET on February 2.
A “potentially dangerous” asteroid the size of a football field will safely pass by Earth on Friday (February 2), making it the closest we have come to our planet in more than 100 years. It will also be at least several centuries before this space rock comes close to us again.
The massive asteroid, called 2008 OS7, is about 890 feet (271 meters) across, and will pass by Earth at a distance of about 1.77 million miles (2.85 million kilometers), according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). For context, that’s more than seven times farther than the Moon orbits Earth.
As it passes near Earth, the asteroid will move at about 41,000 mph (66,000 km/h), according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
To compare the size of this space rock with other asteroids, it is about half the size of the asteroid Bennu, which was observed by NASA. Visited and sampledIt is at least 70 times smaller than the Vredefort meteorite The largest known space rock to ever reach Earth.
Related: “Killer planet” asteroids hide under the glare of the sun. Can we stop them in time?
Due to its size and proximity to Earth, the asteroid Classified as potentially dangerous Despite the fact that it will never get close enough to impact our planet, as JPL predictions show. If the space rock hits Earth, so be it Big enough to wipe out a large cityLike New York.
However, the object is not massive enough to be considered a The “killer planet” asteroid.Like the Vredefort meteorite or space rock The dinosaurs were wiped out 66 million years ago.
NASA has identified about 25,000 potentially dangerous asteroids, although a large percentage of them are not as large as the impending space rock. One of these deadly asteroids is expected to hit Earth every 20,000 years, Live Science previously reported.
2008 OS7 has a highly elliptical orbit, meaning it does not orbit evenly the sun. For this reason, the distance between it and Earth varies greatly the closer the space rock gets to our planet. For example, when the asteroid approached us shortly after its discovery in 2008, it was about 55.9 million miles (90 million kilometers) away from us, more than 30 times farther than it will be this week, according to JPL.
Scientists have directly observed the asteroid flyby by Earth only twice before. But based on the space rock’s orbital data, JPL has simulated every close approach of the asteroid since 1900 and predicted every close approach it will make through 2198. The asteroid is not expected to be closer at any other point than in this data set that extends back nearly 300 years. For our planet than it was on February 2 of this year.
Several other asteroids have come close to or directly collided with Earth in the past few weeks.
On January 27, A An asteroid the size of an airplane passed near Earth At a distance of only 220,000 miles (354,000 km), it is slightly closer than the Moon to our planet. On January 21, astronomers discovered a child-sized asteroid about 3 hours before its approach. It exploded in the air over Germany.