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Business News/ Science / News/  Earth had close shave with over 100 Vatican City, Burj Khalifa-sized asteroids in 2023: NASA's top targets unveiled
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Earth had close shave with over 100 Vatican City, Burj Khalifa-sized asteroids in 2023: NASA's top targets unveiled

Here's a list of five asteroids approaching on December 15, five “most dangerous asteroids” on NASA's list and a few near-Earth huge asteroids that zoomed past Earth in 2023.

Artistic illustration of an asteroid approaching Earth. (NASA via Getty Images)Premium
Artistic illustration of an asteroid approaching Earth. (NASA via Getty Images)

More than 100 "known near-Earth asteroids" passed closer to Earth than the Moon in a year, as per the data shared by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The US space agency said that as of November 30, 2023, as many as 110 "known near-Earth asteroids" passed closer to Earth than the Moon in the last 365 days.

As many as 13 such space rocks flew past Earth in November alone, 16 in October, 13 in September, three in August, two in July, seven in May and 10 in April this year.

 

Near-Earth asteroid | IN NUMBERS
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Near-Earth asteroid | IN NUMBERS (@AsteroidWatch)

Meanwhile, data from the Minor Planet Center, the internationally recognized clearinghouse for small-body position measurements, shows that 2,818 near-Earth asteroids were discovered this year, as of December 12, 2023. In all, 33,884 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered by NASA so far.

5 asteroids approaching on December 15

1. Airplane-sized Asteroid 2023 XZ11 is likely to fly past Earth at a distance of nearly 1,410,000 km

2. Airplane-sized Asteroid 2023 WV23 is likely to fly past Earth at a distance of nearly 1,990,000 km

3. Airplane-sized Asteroid 2023 XY2 is likely to fly past Earth at a distance of nearly 3,700,000 km

4. Airplane-sized Asteroid 2023 XL4 is likely to fly past Earth at a distance of nearly 4,3,80,000 km

5. House-sized Asteroid 2023 XU12 is likely to fly past Earth at a distance of nearly 4,8,60,000 km

5 most dangerous asteroids on NASA's list

The five most dangerous asteroids tracked NASA in the solar system are:

1. Bennu: The near-Earth asteroid Bennu currently poses the greatest risk of impacting our planet. According to Live Science, NASA estimates that when Bennu makes a close approach to Earth on Sept. 24, 2182, there is a 0.037 per cent — or 1 in 2,700 — chance that the asteroid will strike our planet.

2. 29075 (1950 DA): Said to be the "second-riskiest object", asteroid 29075 (1950 DA) currently "has a 0.0029 per cent — or 1 in 34,500 — chance of impacting Earth on March 16, 2880.

ALSO READ: NASA launches spacecraft to explore metal-rich asteroid Psyche; Here's what it expects to find

3. 2023 TL4: Astronomers estimate that 2023 TL4 has a 0.00055 per cent — or 1 in 181,000 — chance of striking Earth on October 10, 2119.

4. 2007 FT3: This one is defined as a "lost asteroid" as astronomers haven't seen it since 2007. NASA predicts that the asteroid has a 0.0000096 per cent — or 1 in 10 million — chance of striking Earth on March 3, 2030.

5. 1979 XB: This asteroid hasn't been seen for around 40 years and therefore, also has a poorly understood orbit. According to Live Science report, CNEOS scientists estimate that it has a 0.000055 per cent — or 1 in 1.8 million — chance of striking Earth on December 14, 2113.

Here are a few near-Earth huge asteroids that zoomed past Earth in 2023:

1. Asteroid (139622) 2001 QQ142 safely passed by Earth on December 6, 2023, at a distance of 5,520,500 km from the planet’s surface. This asteroid was roughly the size of the Vatican City, said an official from the European Space Agency's Planetary Defence office. It was discovered in 2001 and will be back in 2045, the official said.

2. Asteroid 2023 BU, about the size of a box truck, had a "very close encounter" with Earth in January this year. This asteroid, discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisovm, had zoomed over the southern tip of South America, only 3,600 kilometres above the surface and well within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites.

3. Newly discovered Asteroid 2023 NT1, was spotted on July 15 by the Atlas observatory in South Africa. Astronomers there say it was up to 60 metres in size. The asteroid travelled at an estimated 86,000 km/h speed, and entered a 60,000-mile radius of the planet – about 1/4 the moon's distance to Earth on July 13, Nasa said. It was, however, not discovered until July 15 as it had approached Earth in the daytime sky.

4. Asteroid 2023 DZ2, said to be "big enough to wipe out a city", passed between the orbits of the Earth and the Moon in March 2023. According to BBC, astronomers called it a once-in-a-decade event. It had passed within 175,000km of the Earth after flying past the Moon.

5. Asteroid 1994 XD, estimated to measure between 1,200 and 2,700 feet (370 to 830 meters) in diameter, was potentially about as large as Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth, several reports said. HT Tech earlier reported that NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office had warned that the asteroid would make its closest approach to Earth on June 12, at a distance of just 1.97 million miles.

What are near-Earth asteroids?

Near-Earth Asteroids are space rocks that have orbits that pass close to that of Earth. Asteroids that actually cross Earth's orbital path are known as Earth-crossers, NASA explains.

Do they pose any threat to life on Earth?

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the majority of near-Earth objects have orbits that don’t bring them very close to Earth, and therefore pose no risk of impact. However, a small fraction of them – called potentially hazardous asteroids – require more attention.

"These objects are defined as asteroids that are more than about 460 feet (140 meters) in size with orbits that bring them as close as within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometres) of Earth’s orbit around the Sun," the JPL explained.

As of now, NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small. "In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years," JPL says.

Meanwhile, a report in Space.com said in May 2023 that astronomers have determined that Earth probably won't be struck by such an object for at least 1,000 years.

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Published: 15 Dec 2023, 08:21 PM IST
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