A giant asteroid estimated to be between 1,600 and 4,000 feet across will skim past Earth next month. It will hurl past our planet at a speed of about 67,000 miles per hour.
Potentially Hazardous Asteroid
Astronomers said that the space rock known as 2002 AJ129 will fly by at a distance of about 2,615,1258 miles away from Earth on Feb. 4. While this may seem a great distance, the proximity is relatively close in galactic terms.
NASA has classified the asteroid as potentially hazardous. The U.S. space agency gives this label to space objects that may come within 4,600,000 miles from our planet.
Odds Of Asteroid Hitting Earth
The asteroid is one of the most massive space rocks anticipated to skim past Earth this year. The chances of the asteroid striking Earth, however, are remote. Astronomers have so far detected over hundreds of large asteroids set to fly by our planet but none appears to pose immediate threat.
What Happens If The Asteroid Strikes Earth?
Although scientists are confident that the flyby won't result in any impact, any object the size of AJ129 that strike Earth could have devastating consequences. An ancient impact of a massive asteroid, is in fact, widely attributed for the extinction of the dinosaurs and smaller space rocks that hit Earth have been known to cause damages.
Earlier studies suggest that if this happens, large amounts of debris would be thrown up into the atmosphere, which could block out light from the sun for many years and cause temperature drops that can trigger a mini ice age.
The immediate effect of the impact would be catastrophic. If the asteroid strikes on land, the initial blast wave may flatten everything for miles around the impact area. If the space rock crashes into the ocean, the impact would generate giant tsunamis.
Scientists To Keep An Eye On AJ129
Scientists want to keep an eye on the space rock using the Goldstone Radio Telescope in California, one of the two high-powered radar astronomy facilities in the United States.
They hope to gain more insight on asteroid characteristics such as the size, shape, what they look like on the inside, and how quickly they rotate, through radar astronomy.
"We can actually learn a great deal about objects and start to answer some of these questions using radar observations," said NASA astronomer Lance Benner, who uses radar technology to study passing asteroids.