An asteroid up to three times the size of a blue whale will zoom past Earth at more than 26,000 km/h on Monday (June 6). according to NASA (opens in new tab).
That asteroidDubbed the 2021 GT2, it is expected to safely miss our planet by more than 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers) — or roughly 10 times the average distance therebetween Earth and the moon. Astronomers first spotted the space rock last year and estimated its size to be between 121 and 272 feet (37 to 83 meters) wide. That sounds pretty big – between one and three times as long as a blue whale – it is not large enough to be considered a potential threat to Earth.
2021 GT2 is an Aten class asteroid, meaning it is orbiting Sun closer than Earth (in this case once every 342 days), and its orbit crosses Earth’s orbit. Astronomers know of more than 1,800 such asteroids – many of which are considered potentially dangerous.
Related: What are the largest impact craters on earth?
After June 6, its next close approach to Earth will be on January 26, 2034, when the asteroid will pass within 9 million miles (14.5 million km) of our planet – significantly further away than the upcoming approach.
The asteroid is considered a near-Earth object — a term for asteroids and comets that orbit within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun. (One astronomical unit is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, about 93 million miles or 149.6 million km.) NASA monitors tens of thousands of these objects and predicts the orbits of each one from today to hundreds of years into the future. Currently, astronomers do not believe that near-Earth objects pose a threat to Earth.
Still, scientists want to be prepared should a near-Earth asteroid’s trajectory suddenly change after an unexpected event — say, one near-Earth asteroid collides with another, dumping large chunks of debris over the Earth solar system.
NASA is currently testing whether a large asteroid could be thrown off course by a rocket impact. In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft (opens in new tab) The so-called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will make a head-on impact with the 530-foot-wide (160 m) Dimorphos asteroid in the fall of 2022. The collision won’t destroy the asteroid but may slightly alter the rock’s orbit, Live Science previously reported.
Originally published on Live Science.
https://www.livescience.com/asteroid-2021-gt2-close-flyby-earth Asteroid 2021 GT2 will fly by Earth on June 6, 2022