Friday, January 28, 2022

What you really need to know about an asteroid heading towards Earth next week

Next week, December 11, a larger than usual asteroid is due to fly over Earth.

Called 4660 Nereus, it is relatively frequent in near-Earth space, which means it is well characterized, with a diameter of 330 meters (1,083 feet). This is slightly less than the height of the Empire State Building.

Despite sensational tabloid headlines, the 4660 Nereus will fly by at a beautiful safe distance of 3.93 million kilometers (2.44 million miles), just over 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Due to its size and distance from Earth, the 4660 Nereus is an classified as potentially hazardous object. This classification includes any asteroid that passes within 7.48 million kilometers (4.65 million miles) of Earth’s orbit and is more than 140 meters (500 feet) across. There are many stones that fall into this category.

There are many reasons for tracking them down. These include ensuring that they do not deviate from their known orbits on a trajectory that is more dangerous to Earth, and observing groups of asteroids to maintain awareness of what is moving in near-Earth space.

The 4660 Nereus, first discovered in 1982, is special – not because it is dangerous, but because it flies over the Earth at a relative frequency. Its 1.82-year orbit around the Sun brings it closer to us approximately every 10 years, although from the point of view of space, “close” still remains “at a safe distance.”

Because of this, the asteroid was considered a target for asteroid missions such as Hayabusa (who eventually visited Itokawa).

Its closest approach next week will be the closest to the 4660 Nereus in decades. His next close visit will take place on February 14, 2060, when he will fly approximately 1.2 million kilometers (which is three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon).

While the asteroid poses no threat, it is better to be prepared than not, as we know that asteroids have significantly affected the Earth in the past.

Space agencies are working on this. Just last week, a NASA spacecraft launched a mission called the Dual Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, to try to ram the asteroid and knock it off course. This meeting is to take place in September next year.

So you can relax, because of all the things you have to worry about, the asteroids that land on your head are not currently one of them. And if you’re really concerned, you can watch the asteroid approaching here and here.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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