An Asteroid Larger Than Some of the World’s Tallest Buildings Will Zip by Earth Saturday

CNN Newsource
By CNN Newsource
September 14, 2019Science & Tech
An Asteroid Larger Than Some of the World’s Tallest Buildings Will Zip by Earth Saturday
Stock photo: An asteroid about to sail past Earth. (NASA)

On Saturday, an asteroid will pass by Earth that’s larger than some of the tallest buildings on the planet.

Asteroid 2000 QW7 is estimated to be between 290 meters and 650 meters in diameter, or between 951 and 2,132 feet, according to NASA. The world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which reaches 2,717 feet tall. The second tallest building is the Shanghai Tower at 2,073 feet.

The asteroid will be traveling at 14,361 miles per hour when it passes within 3,312,944 miles of Earth at 7:54 p.m. ET.

Astronomers don’t believe the asteroid poses any danger, but NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies is tracking it.

In June, astronomers showed that telescopes could provide enough warning to allow people to move away from an asteroid strike on Earth.

Astronomers at the University of Hawaii used the ATLAS and Pan-STARRS survey telescopes to detect a small asteroid before it entered Earth’s atmosphere on the morning of June 22.

The asteroid, named 2019 MO, was 13 feet in diameter and 310,685 miles from Earth. The ATLAS facility observed it four times over 30 minutes around midnight in Hawaii.

Skyscraper Asteroid
An asteroid will pass by Earth that’s larger than some of the tallest buildings on the planet. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

Initially, the Scout impact analysis software at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory deemed the potential impact as a 2. For reference, 0 is “unlikely” and 4 is “likely.” Davide Farnocchia, navigation engineer at JPL, requested additional observations because he noticed a detection near Puerto Rico 12 hours later.

The Pan-STARRS telescope was also operating and captured part of the sky where the asteroid could be seen.

The additional images from the Pan-STARRS telescope helped researchers better determine the entry path for the asteroid, which bumped the Scout rating to 4.

The calculation matched up, and weather radar in San Juan detected the asteroid as it burned up in our atmosphere. It entered the atmosphere over the ocean, 236 miles south of the city.

ATLAS, which is two telescopes 100 miles apart on the Big Island and Maui, scans the entire sky every two nights for asteroids that could impact Earth. It can spot small asteroids half a day before they arrive at Earth and could point to larger asteroids days before.

Although much of the knowledge of their capabilities and determinations about the asteroid was worked out after the fact, astronomers believe that ATLAS and Pan-STARRS could help predict more in the future.

Asteroid 2006 QQ23

Last month, an asteroid bigger than the Empire State building passed by Earth.

Asteroid 2006 QQ23 zoomed by Earth on Aug. 10 and, at an estimated diameter of up to 1,870 feet, it’s easy to see why people were worried.

Asteroid 2006 QQ23
Asteroid 2006 QQ23 in a File Photo. (NASA)

But Lindley Johnson and Kelly Fast of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office say there’s nothing to fear. Both Johnson and Fast help track what they label as “near Earth objects,” such as asteroids and comets that orbit our sun along with the other planets.

Tracking these objects is mainly a defense mechanism, to ensure none are anywhere close to hitting Earth.

And, as far as Asteroid 2006 QQ23 goes, Johnson said it’s a moderate-sized asteroid, and it’s nearly 5 million miles away. It’s “more or less benign,” he said.

Asteroids around this size pass by Earth about a half dozen times a year, Johnson said. Asteroid 2006 QQ23 is less than a mile long, but the biggest known asteroid that orbits our sun is about 21 miles long, though asteroids of that size are rare.

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