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asteroid-1208666

Massive Asteroid to Fly By Earth on February 4th 2018

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The 1.2km wide asteroid will fly by Earth on Sunday February 4, the same day that the US celebrates the NFL Super Bowl.

The space agency has dubbed the massive rock 2002 AJ129 and it measures between 500m and 1.2km across, making the gigantic asteroid larger than the Burj Khalifa.

Judging by the orbit of the asteroid, NASA says that it will pass Earth just 2.6 million miles away – a hair’s width in astronomical terms.

And it is expected to fly past at speeds of 76,000 mph making it nearly 16 times faster than the world’s quickest manned aircraft, the hypersonic North American X-15.

Anything that comes closer than 4,650,000 miles of Earth and is more than 500 feet in diameter is classified by NASA as a “near-Earth object” (NEO).

However, boffins at the US space agency have moved to squash fears by saying that there is no chance that the asteroid will hit Earth.

At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, said: “We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately.

“Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance — zero — of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or any time over the next 100 years.”

A statement from the JPL said: “The asteroid’s velocity at the time of closest approach, 76,000 mph (34 kilometres per second), is higher than the majority of near-Earth objects during an Earth flyby.

“The high flyby velocity is a result of the asteroid’s orbit, which approaches very close to the Sun — 11 million miles (18 million kilometres).

“Although asteroid 2002 AJ129 is categorised as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), it does not pose an actual threat of colliding with our planet for the foreseeable future.”

NASA said: “Are asteroids dangerous? Some are, but the likelihood of a dangerous asteroid striking the Earth during any given year is low.

“Because some past mass extinction events have been linked to asteroid impacts, however, humanity has made it a priority to find and catalog those asteroids that may one day affect life on Earth.”

Asteroid 2002 AJ129 will make a close approach to Earth on February 4, 2018 at 1.30pm PST (4.30pm EST / 21.30 UTC).

SEAN MARTIN
Express UK


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