21Jan2018

No, an Asteroid Is Not Going to Collide with Earth in February

Asteroid 2002 AJ129 will make its closest approach to Earth on Feb. 4, 2018, at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT). At closest approach, the asteroid will be no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the moon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A few media outlets have reported (in some cases, rather sensationally) that a “potentially hazardous” asteroid will fly close to Earth on Feb. 4. Are the reports correct? Absolutely! Is there any need to panic? Absolutely not!

It’s true that the building-size asteroid 2002 AJ129 will pass by Earth within about 10 times the distance from Earth to the moon (about 2.6 million miles, or 4.2 million kilometers), according to NASA. The asteroid is about 0.3 to 0.75 miles (0.5 to 1.2 km) in diameter — for comparison, the world’s tallest building is 0.51 miles (0.82 km) tall, while the new World Trade Center building in New York is 0.33 miles (0.53 km) tall.

NASA representatives say there’s no chance that it will collide with Earth.

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

Nonetheless, with no context, asteroid 2002 AJ129’s close flyby might seem remarkable. But what many outlets failed to mention is that rocks of this size fly close to Earth somewhat regularly; in fact, two space rocks came significantly closer to our planet just this week.

Thursday (Jan. 18), the car-size asteroid 2018 BD (discovered just this year) came to within 0.09 times the distance from the Earth to the moon (about 21,500 miles or 34,600 km), according to NASA’s Solar System Dynamics website and the Minor Planet Center. And Asteroid 2018 BX, which is also about the size of a car or bus, made its close flyby of Earth late Friday night (U.S. Eastern time on Jan. 19), zipping past Earth at a distance of about 0.073 times the distance from the Earth to the moon (about 174,400 miles or 280,670 km).

Source: No, an Asteroid Is Not Going to Collide with Earth in February

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