Massive Great Pyramid-Sized Asteroid to Skim Earth at 56,000mph Today, Warns NASA

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on May 9, 2024 15:36
Massive Great Pyramid-Sized Asteroid to Skim Earth at 56,000mph Today, Warns NASA

A massive asteroid about the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza will pass by Earth today, NASA has warned.

The 120m (394ft) asteroid, technically titled 2024 JZ, will travel by the planet at a breathtaking 56,000 mph (90,123), 65 times quicker than a bullet.

However, there is no need panic just yet, as this asteroid will pass Earth at a safe distance of 2.6 million miles (4.2 million km).

NASA Warns of Near-Earth Asteroid Flyby

NASA classifies the asteroid as a 'near-Earth object' (NEO). Dr. Edward Bloomer, senior astronomer at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, told MailOnline: "Today's passing is not a concern at all, this is not the kind of thing we should be worrying about."

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According to NASA: 'NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth's neighbourhood.

'Composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system while most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.'

A NEO is defined as any object that is within 1.3 astronomical units (AU) (120.8 million miles) of the sun, and thus within 0.3 AU (27.8 million miles) of Earth's orbit.

Asteroids are considered 'possibly hazardous' if they pass within 0.05 astronomical units (4.65 million miles) of Earth and have a diameter of more than 140 metres (459 feet).

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Even though 2024 JZ will be a completely safe distance of only 0.028 AU from Earth, this is regarded quite close in astronomical terms.

This tonight, a minor asteroid known as 2024 JT3 will pass within 12,000 miles (19,300 km) of Earth.

However, Juan Luis Cano from the ESA's Planetary Defence Office assured MailOnline that Earth is 'absolutely' safe.

Mr Cano claims that there is 'no possibility of striking the Earth.'

He continues: "In any case, a 5-10 m object would typically disintegrate in the atmosphere, releasing some small meteorites to the ground."

Exploring the Differences Between NEOs and Meteors

A network of professional and volunteer astronomers monitors NEOs as they move through the solar system.

Every month, they discover dozens of NEOs and accurately anticipate their courses.

In fact, huge objects like 2024 JZ going through Earth's orbit are so common that the ESA classifies it as a'very regular event'.

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The vast majority of these items burn up in the planet's atmosphere and appear to us as shooting stars rather than landing on the ground.

Each year, the Earth passes through many intense clouds of debris left by comets, resulting in meteor showers like this month's Eta Aquariids.

NEOs vary from meteors in that they are large enough to transit through the atmosphere without being destroyed.

While today's close encounter is not cause for fear, Dr. Bloomer believes there is a risk of an impact in the future.'We're kind of gambling every day,' he admitted.

If 2024 JZ were on a threat intercept course, that would be a big problem because it's a big old chunk of rock moving pretty quickly.'

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During the 1908 Tunguska Event, an asteroid less than half the size of 2024 JZ erupted over an area of Siberian woodland, destroying 830 square miles of trees.

Similarly, Dr. Bloomer points out that the Chelyabinsk meteor, which damaged 7,200 structures and injured 1,491 people in Russia, had a diameter of only 20 metres (65 feet).

Most concerning was the fact that the Chelyabinsk meteor had previously gone undetected when it struck with Earth.

As Mr Cano clarifies, while there is currently no relevant threat, 'the actual problem resides on the fact that there are still many NEOs to be found.'

How Does NASA Safeguard Earth from NEOs?

Fortunately, NASA has already invested in ways for protecting the planet from incoming asteroids.

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In November 2021, the space agency conducted the DART mission, which sent a satellite into the side of Dimorphos, an asteroid approximately 6.8 million miles (10.9 million km) from Earth.

This experiment demonstrated that by hitting an asteroid with a small satellite early enough, the little impact could propel it into a safe orbit by the time it reaches Earth.

Dr Bloomer states: 'If you can get to it faster and further in advance then you actually need to make a smaller impact to make a bigger deflection over time.

'Whereas if you've got something that you don't detect until particularly late, then you've got to make more efforts to deflect it in time.'

While this operation was simply a rehearsal, it demonstrated that the planet could be rescued with enough advance notice.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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