Asteroid bigger than Leaning Tower of Pisa to make close approach to Earth

·2-min read
Asteroid bigger than Leaning Tower of Pisa to make close approach to Earth

An asteroid slightly larger than the Leaning Tower of Pisa is set to make a close approach to Earth on Thursday, according to Nasa.

The space rock named 2022 PC is expected to make its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 6,300,000km from the planet on 18 August, Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory noted in its Asteroid Watch dashboard.

To put this in perspective, the average distance between Earth and the moon is close to 239,000 miles, or about 384,633km.

The dashboard displays a list of asteroids approaching Earth within 4.6 million miles of the planet.

Space objects larger than about 150m (492ft) that can approach the Earth to within this distance are termed potentially hazardous objects, according to the dashboard.

The 58m-wide asteroid, about the size of an airplane, was first discovered in July 2022, and was found to revolve near the orbits of Earth and Venus.

It is expected to make its close approach to Earth, traveling at a speed of about 14,580km per hour (9227 miles per hour).

While the space rock is predicted to make a safe passage past Earth, astronomers are closely monitoring its trajectory and modeling its future pass-by scenarios.

The rock was found to make a close approach to Earth every few years.

It would come close to the planet again in 2026, but not as close as its current approach again until 2043.

Nasa is keeping an eye on potentially hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth and cause devastation.

The space agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office detects, tracks, and characterises Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) to mitigate potential future impacts from such devastating space rocks.

Through its ongoing Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) mission, Nasa is also attempting to apply a “kinetic impactor” technique to deliberately collide a spacecraft with a known asteroid at high speed to change the space rock’s trajectory.

The Dart spacecraft has steadily moved toward its 26 September encounter when it is set to ram into the small 160m-wide moonlet asteroid Dimorphos — which orbits a larger companion asteroid called Didymos — at about 6km/s to slightly change its orbit.

While neither Dimorphos nor Didymos pose any threat to Earth, and no known asteroid of their sizes pose any risk of collision with our planet “for at least the next century”, Nasa hopes to test the potential of asteroid deflection as means of planetary defence with the exercise.