NASA Unsure if Object Hurtling Toward Earth and Arriving in February Is an Asteroid or a Comet

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They’ve dubbed the object “2016 WF9” and NASA scientists say they aren’t sure if it’s a comet or an asteroid.

They just know it’ll be large enough that we can watch it soar past us with binoculars.

Recently detected in late November, the object is reportedly between 0.3 to 0.6 miles across. It’s dark but lacks the dust and gas clouds that typify a comet, so for now it has been officially classified as an asteroid.

According to NASA, it will pass Earth on February 25, 2017 at a distance of 32,000,000 miles away and is not considered a threat.

The object was discovered by the NEOWISE project, an asteroid-hunting portion of NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.

In a press release, NEOWISE’s Deputy Principal Investigator at the Jet Propulsion Lab James Bauer said:

“2016 WF9 could have cometary origins. This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface.”

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