A massive asteroid, the size of a football stadium, is hurtling towards Earth at a breakneck speed. The asteroid, dubbed ‘2008Go20,’ will pass Earth on July 24. The asteroid is travelling at a speed of over 8 kilometres per second, or around 28,800 kilometres per hour, which is so fast that anything that gets in its way will be destroyed. The 20-meter-wide near-Earth object (NEO) will pass by at a distance of 28,70,847,607 kilometres, or eight times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
While the asteroid will pass Earth safely, its close approach has been classified as Apollo, which is reserved for the most dangerous asteroids. Nasa is keeping a close eye on the object. An asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower passed close by the planet in June, 2021KT1. At a distance of 4.5 million kilometres, 2021KT1 made a close approach to Earth, which was classified as “potentially hazardous.”
Any object closer than 4.6 million km, is considered a potentially hazardous object.
Asteroids are rocky fragments left over from the 4.6 billion-year-old formation of the solar system. An asteroid is classified as a near-Earth object if its distance from our planet is less than 1.3 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, according to the Nasa Joint Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which tracks asteroid movement (the Earth-Sun distance is about 93 million miles).
Over 26,000 near-Earth asteroids are tracked by Nasa, with over 1,000 of them considered potentially hazardous. To determine the asteroid’s location, the agency tracks its movement around the Sun and computes an elliptical path that best fits the available observations.
Meanwhile, researchers at China’s National Space Science Center discovered in simulations that striking a large asteroid with 23 Long March 5 rockets at the same time could deflect it by 1.4 times the Earth’s radius. Their calculations are based on Bennu, an asteroid orbiting the Sun that is as tall as New York’s Empire State Building.