Title: NASA Identifies Five Potentially Hazardous Asteroids Approaching Earth
NASA has announced the identification of five large asteroids set to pass near Earth this week. While none of them pose immediate threats, they are all classified as “potentially hazardous” by NASA. The largest of these asteroids, named 2023 QE8, is expected to come within 945,000 miles of Earth on Sunday, marking its first trip into Earth’s orbit in two years.
Measuring approximately 170 feet long, three of the asteroids are roughly the size of commercial airplanes. Despite their immense size, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is able to track these celestial bodies. The lab monitors any asteroid or comet that approaches within 4.6 million miles of Earth, which is about 19.5 times the distance to the moon.
While the majority of asteroids orbit within the main asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter, some enter the inner solar system and come close to Earth, known as near-Earth asteroids. Four out of the five upcoming asteroids have visited Earth’s orbital neighborhood before, and it is expected that they will likely do so again in the future.
This week’s asteroid encounters are part of a growing pattern. In the past year alone, 107 asteroids have passed closer to Earth than the moon. To address potential threats posed by these celestial objects, NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office in 2016. This office is dedicated to tracking near-Earth objects and preparing for any potential impact events.
To further protect against asteroid threats, NASA conducted a test mission that involved crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid. Rather than attempting to destroy the asteroid, NASA’s preferred strategy is to nudge them off their course, avoiding the risk of multiple impacts.
NASA is also actively working on developing the NEO Surveyor telescope, set to launch in 2028. This advanced telescope aims to detect 90% of asteroids and comets larger than 460 feet that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit. This ambitious goal will provide valuable data and enhance our ability to mitigate the risks posed by these potentially hazardous space rocks.
In summary, while five large asteroids are set to pass near Earth this week, none of them pose an immediate threat to our planet. Nevertheless, NASA continues its diligent efforts to track and prepare for any potential future events, as well as invest in technology that expands our ability to detect and mitigate these risks.