NASA Asteroid Warning: ‘Potentially Hazardous’ Eiffel Tower-sized asteroid heading towards Earth

An asteroid the height of the Eiffel Tower is travelling in the direction of earth and scheduled to reach its closest point soon before Christmas.

4660 Nereus is classed as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid and would create a catastrophic impact if it reached Earth.

But NASA’s asteroid monitor has concluded it presents no danger to humans, despite being larger than 90 percent of other asteroids at 330m.

Moving at 6.578km/second Nereus is nearly 11 times quicker than an F-16 fighter jet’s peak speed.

Near-Earth asteroid, computer artwork.

As it approaches the Earth on December 11, it will be just 3.9 million kilometres away, less than ten times the distance between us and the moon.

In 2060, it will pass by again, this time at a greater distance of 23 million kilometres, before coming near again at a distance of 1.2 million kilometres in the following year.

Nereus is an asteroid of the Apollo class that crosses the path of the Earth as it orbits the sun.

According to the website Space Reference, the first observation of it occurred on September 30, 1981.

With a current human-made rocket, we could reach the planet for exploring purposes in 426 days or less.

According to The Mirror, scientists have even contemplated taking part in the expedition.

Japan has pondered deploying its spacecraft, the Hayabusa, to investigate Nereus in the past.

With its Robotic Asteroid Shoemaker Rendezvous probe (don’t ask), NASA planned to approach the asteroid that is more than three football fields wide (and growing).

The world has in fact had previous encounters with these massive chunks of rapidly moving rock, thanks to the fact that big asteroids have entered the earth’s orbit in the past.

In September, an asteroid bigger than our very own Big Ben clock tower, travelling at a speed of more than 80,000km/hour, was expected to approach our orbit.

We were just 2.9 million kilometres away from 2021RL3, which is up to 110 metres wide.

That’s just seven times the distance between the Earth and the Moon, yet I’m willing to bet none of you were aware of it.

Another near call occurred in March of this year, when an asteroid the size of the Golden Gate Bridge passed over the Earth’s surface.

In 2021, according to CBS News, it was the biggest and fastest space rock to pass through our planet’s atmosphere.

We may be thankful that Nereus is merely stopping over for a little wave and a talk with us.

Most of us have had enough of 2021, and any closer than it is now on its present track would be a very antisocial distance.

NASA gears up to launch a spacecraft that will crash into an asteroid

The vast majority of space missions have no intention of crashing their ship. In fact, that’s exactly what NASA has in mind for its impending Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, in which it will slam a spaceship into an asteroid in order to determine whether or not this is a realistic method of protecting Earth from potentially harmful asteroids.

The agency is preparing for the mission’s launch, which is scheduled to take place later this month.

While the vast majority of asteroids that we discover pass harmlessly by Earth, a tiny fraction are classified as “Potentially Hazardous Objects,” which have the potential to do significant damage to the planet.

Because of technological advancements, we are becoming more adept at identifying these possible hazards. The question is, what should we do if we see a piece of rock going straight for our planet? It is being tested as part of the DART project, which includes crashing a spacecraft with an asteroid to demonstrate a planetary defence idea.

DART will travel in the direction of a pair of asteroids: one bigger body known as Didymos, and one smaller one known as Dimorphos.

The fact that neither of these asteroids represents a direct threat to the globe is irrelevant; this will serve as a simulation of what would occur if an asteroid were to threaten the world in the future.

Earth-based telescopes will be able to watch DART’s encounter with Dimorphos and try to modify its course as a consequence of the observations.

“The DART spacecraft’s main body is about 100 times smaller than Dimorphos, the asteroid that it is aiming for,” says the scientist.

“As you can see, this isn’t going to kill the asteroid,” Nancy Chabot, DART coordination lead at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), remarked during a briefing session. “It’s only going to give it a little boost,” says the author.

It will actually adjust its route around the bigger asteroid in order to avoid hitting it. Because of this, we’re testing the concept of asteroid deflection in this double asteroid system.

When the DART spacecraft is launched, it will navigate autonomously using a technique known as SmartNav, which will employ computer methods to find and orient the spacecraft toward the Dimorphos asteroid.

Laughing, Michelle Chen, head of the SmartNav team at APL, stated, “Never in my life would I have imagined that I would take a several hundred million dollar spacecraft and crash it into an asteroid.”

On Tuesday, November 23, at 10:20 p.m. PT, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, carrying the DART satellite into orbit. Asteroid collision and deflection manoeuvres are expected to be attempted by the spacecraft after it reaches the binary asteroid system in autumn 2022.

About Alex Bruno

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