This weekend will be packed with quite the series of exciting celestial events — a massive asteroid is expected to zoom past the Earth today, followed by another one the next day… and the next day… and then a few more next week. But are these asteroids headed towards Earth?
Though NASA categorizes all five of these asteroids as “potentially hazardous,” fortunately, they are not headed towards Earth so much as they are closely approaching Earth. Basically, we are not in any danger, and the plot of Don’t Look Up is not expected to come true anytime soon. Phew.
That said, studying asteroids that come this close to Earth is an important way to learn about the universe. Here’s a look into the five upcoming asteroid approaches.
The first asteroid to approach Earth this weekend is called 2015 FF.
On Friday, Aug. 12, asteroid 2015 FF is expected to fly by the Earth at a distance of 2,660,000 miles away, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which details the next five asteroid approaches.
Live Science notes that this distance is nearly eight times the average length between the Earth and the moon, which is closer than it sounds; also, it will move at about 27 times faster the speed of sound.
JPL added that 2015 FF is approximately 53 feet long, which is about the size of a modest house.
According to JPL, asteroid 2015 FF has made close approaches with Earth and Venus at least 16 times before this; it is also expected to closely pass by Earth again in 2025, 2066, 2069, and then pass by Mars in 2069.
Four more asteroids will fly by Earth soon after.
The next day, on Saturday, Aug. 13, an asteroid double the size of 2015 FF is expected to make another close approach to Earth. As per JPL, this one, called 2022 OT1, is about 110 feet long, which is about the length of a smaller commercial airplane. This asteroid will come within 2,960,000 miles of Earth, and is expected to pass by on Sunday morning.
Then, on Sunday, Aug. 13, asteroid 2022 OA4, about 71 feet long, will approach the Earth from a distance of 4,320,000 miles.
After the weekend wraps up, we’ll have a break on Monday — but then come Tuesday, Aug. 16, two asteroids will make close approaches. First, 93-foot-long asteroid 2022 PW will zoom by from 329,000 miles away, which is by far the closest approach of the week. Then, asteroid 2022 PJ1, about 60 feet in length, will pass by Earth from a distance of about 2,630,000 miles.
What are the chances of an asteroid destroying Earth?
As per Mint, NASA stated that if an asteroid as big as 2022 OT1 (the second-biggest one of this series of five asteroids) were to hit Earth, it would leave a crater the size of Paris. Additionally, Live Science noted that NASA classifies any fast-moving space object passing by Earth within 4.65 million miles as “potentially hazardous.”
Fortunately, NASA is not at all expecting this asteroid (or any other upcoming asteroids) to truly become hazardous and collide with our planet — or to destroy our planet, for that matter. That was only in Don’t Look Up.
However, there have been several notable asteroid strikes with the Earth’s atmosphere in the past. For instance, Live Science noted that in 2013, an asteroid struck Chelyabinsk, Russia, which set off a large blast, caused fireballs to explode across the city, and injured about 1,200 people.