Scientists say that a potentially hazardous asteroid moving at 67,000 miles per hour will fly by the Earth on February 4th. But NASA assures the public that the 2002 AJ129 asteroid will not impact the Earth.
The asteroid will zoom by at nearly 15 times faster than the world’s quickest manned aircraft – the hypersonic North American X-15, which traveled at 4,520 miles per hour.
The asteroid is around 0.7 miles (1.1km) wide – making it longer than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at 0.5 miles high (0.8km). It is set to pass by our planet at a distance of around 2,615,128 miles (4,208,641km) away – which is relatively close in space terms, causing NASA to label it as “potentially hazardous.” For reference, the distance between the Earth and the moon is 238,855 miles (384,400 km).
NASA describes asteroids as “hazardous” if they come within 4,600,000 miles (7,403,00km) of our planet. This will be the largest space rock to fly past the Earth this year. According to the Daily Mail UK, previous research says that should an asteroid of this size strike the planet, it could plunge the globe into a worldwide mini-ice age. The hypothetical impact would cause average temperatures around the world to fall by as much as 8°C, according to a 2016 study on the effects of a collision with a 0.6-mile wide (1km) asteroid.
Scientists previously warned that the “very severe global impact” would last several years, causing the world to become a much darker, colder and drier place. “These would not be pleasant times,” Charles Bardeen, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said during a presentation at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) at the time. A worst-case scenario impact would leave soot in the air for ten years, and take the dust six years to settle if an asteroid of this size ever hit our planet.
Currently, NASA would not be able to deflect an asteroid if it were heading for Earth but it could mitigate the impact and take measures that would protect lives and property.
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