"Potentially hazardous" asteroid to have close encounter with Earth

  • In Science
  • 2022-01-12 13:10:00Z
  • By CBS News

An asteroid that is wider than the tallest building in the world is set to make one of its closest encounters with Earth next week. NASA projects that the asteroid, named 7482 (1994 PC1), will fly by on January 18.

The asteroid is estimated to measure at roughly 1 kilometer, or more than 3,280 feet, across - a size that is more than twice the height of New York's Empire State Building, which is 1,454 feet from base to antenna, and hundreds of feet more than Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, which is 2,716.5 feet tall.

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1)
Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1)'s closest approach to Earth will take place on January 18, 2022.  

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory believes that the space body could come within 1,231,184 miles of Earth. This would be the closest the asteroid has come to Earth since January 17, 1933, when NASA projected it came within less than 700,000 miles of the planet.

It's also anticipated that the asteroid will pass by Earth again in July this year, though at a far greater distance, NASA said. The next time it is anticipated to fly by Earth at such a close distance is not until January 18, 2105, when it is projected to come within 1,445,804 miles.

The space agency has been monitoring this particular asteroid since it was discovered in August 1994, and has classified it as an Apollo asteroid, meaning its orbit crosses that of Earth's, and has axes that are slightly larger. It's also classified as "potentially hazardous" for its "potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth," according to NASA.

There are more than a million known asteroids, and it is not uncommon for many to fly by Earth, with the overwhelming majority that do being of little concern. On Wednesday and Thursday this week, for example, there are at least five asteroids zooming by the planet, including one the size of a bus and three the size of a house, according to NASA.

However, there are about 25,000 near-Earth asteroids at least 500 feet wide that could be "devastating" if they crash into Earth, according to Nancy Chabot, chief planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.

"We're actually not talking, like, global extinction event, but regional devastation on the area that could wipe out a city or even a small state," she previously stated. "And so it is a real concern. It is a real threat."

And in case there is an asteroid emergency in the future resembling that of Netflix's "Don't Look Up," NASA is already working on a solution. In November, the agency launched a probe that will crash head-on into a small asteroid next fall as part of a test to see if it's possible to push a future asteroid off course if it appears as though it's going to have a catastrophic collision with the planet.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, will collide with a 525-foot-wide body called Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour.

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