- An asteroid considered "potentially dangerous,quot; by NASA will pass Earth on May 21.
- The rock, which can be up to a mile in diameter, is expected to safely navigate at a distance of around 4 million miles.
- Visit the BGR home page for more stories.
An estimated asteroid up to nearly a mile in diameter is slated for a rendezvous with Earth tomorrow, May 21, 2020. The space rock known as 136795 (1997 BQ) will move at a speed of more than seven miles per second when it arrives. to its closest point to our planet. Fortunately, NASA has been keeping a close eye on him and he is expected to miss Earth by a significant margin.
As the name implies, 1997 BQ was first seen by astronomers in 1997. It is large enough to be tracked, and over time its Sun-centered orbit was mapped and refined.
The term "potentially dangerous,quot; sounds pretty scary, but it's not as scary a label as you might think. NASA has a very broad definition of what it considers a potentially dangerous PHA or asteroid.
In its current definition, a PHA must have an orbit that places it within just one-twentieth of an astronomical unit (that's the distance from Earth to the Sun) and an absolute magnitude (a measure of brightness that can indicate the size ) of 22)
There are lots and lots of objects that NASA knows about that fall into that cube. The good news is that once we know an object's orbit, we can predict its future Earth steps with a high degree of precision. That allows us to prepare for a potential impact well in advance if an asteroid appears to be on a collision course with Earth years or even decades later.
When it comes to 1997 BQ, you won't have much of a chance to see the sights as you pass Earth. The distance between our planet and the rock at its closest approach will be just four million miles. That is a nice and comfortable buffer zone that ensures our safety while allowing astronomers to take a look at the fast rock as you navigate.
With estimates of its size suggesting that the asteroid could be nearly a mile wide, it would cause significant damage if it hit Earth. If it collapsed over a populated area, the casualties could be incredibly high, and splashing into the ocean would cause a host of problems, from massive waves to atmospheric disturbances.
Fortunately, we don't have to worry about any of that this time. The next time the asteroid is expected to pass close to Earth is in 2050, and it will be even further away during that visit.