NASA has announced that an asteroid labeled as ‘potentially hazardous’ will pass by Earth this week. These ‘near-Earth objects,’ also known as NEOs, have to get to a certain distance from our planet in order to be considered potentially dangerous.
The experts at the American space agency announced that such a space rock is on the radar for this week. The asteroid 2012 X133 is expected to pass by us on Thursday, March 26th, at a speed of about 53,000mph.
Potentially Hazardous Asteroid
The space rock’s size is about 1,280 feet (390 meters) wide, which is sufficient to cause a significant impact on Earth if it were to collide with the planet. Fortunately, NASA engineers are able to predict the trajectory of the cosmic body and say that the asteroid will safely pass by. It is believed to skim past Earth at 4.1 million miles (0.04453 astronomical units, or AU) from the core of our planet.
“As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth,” NASA explained. “Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers.”
Besides NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) is also monitoring the asteroid, and it is actually one of another six that are being closely tracked as they pass by Earth this week. However, asteroid 2012 X133 is the only one that has been labeled as ‘potentially hazardous.’
“Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” NASA said in a statement.
What Would Happen if an Asteroid Were to Collide With Earth
According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), about one hundred tons of interplanetary material skims past Earth’s surface.
“Most of the smallest interplanetary particles that reach the Earth’s surface are the tiny dust particles that are released by comets as their ices vaporize in the solar neighborhood,” as per CNEOS. “The vast majority of the larger interplanetary material that reaches the Earth’s surface originates as the collision fragments of asteroids that have run into one another some eons ago.”
The agency does explain a bit about what would happen if one of these cosmic objects did end up crashing into Earth.
“With an average interval of about 10,000 years, rocky or iron asteroids larger than about 100 meters would be expected to reach the Earth’s surface and cause local disasters or produce the tidal waves that can inundate low lying coastal areas,” CNEOS says.
On an average of ever several hundred thousand years or so, space rocks more massive than a kilometer could create global disasters. In that case, the impact material would expand throughout the Earth’s atmosphere, and the plant life would be affected by acid rain, partial blocking of sunlight, and from the firestorms produced by heated impact debris coming back to the planet’s surface.
“Since their orbital paths often cross that of the Earth, collisions with near-Earth objects have occurred in the past, and we should remain alert to the possibility of future close Earth approaches. It seems prudent to mount efforts to discover and study these objects, to characterize their sizes, compositions, and structures and to keep an eye upon their future trajectories,” explains the space agency.