NASA has reported that on Friday, September 22, an asteroid will pass Earth at an exceptionally close distance. According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), Asteroid 2023 RQ6 will make its inaugural approach to Earth today.
This asteroid’s orbit will bring it as close as 6.4 million kilometers to Earth. While this might seem like a substantial distance, it is relatively close in astronomical terms. NASA has calculated its velocity at 33,912 kilometers per hour.
Despite the close encounter, NASA has not classified Asteroid 2023 RQ6 as a Potentially Hazardous Object because it will not impact Earth’s surface. The asteroid has an estimated width of approximately 75 feet, making it too small to be designated as potentially hazardous. In terms of size, it is comparable to an aircraft.
Asteroid 2023 RQ6 is part of the Apollo group of Near-Earth Asteroids, which takes its name from the giant 1862 Apollo asteroid discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s. Apollo asteroids are Earth-crossing space rocks with semi-major axes larger than Earth’s.
While most asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter can be observed using advanced ground and space-based telescopes, NASA scientists have recently located three elusive asteroids hidden behind the Sun’s glare.
Among these asteroids, NASA’s latest discovery includes a large object that could pose a potential hazard to Earth. Researchers used the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) mounted on the 4-meter Telescope of Victor M. Blanco in Chile to detect and observe these asteroids. Locating celestial objects in the Sun’s vicinity is challenging due to the Sun’s glare.
In addition to Asteroid 2023 RQ6, Asteroid 2023 SJ made its closest approach to Earth on September 21. It has a width ranging from 52 to 118 feet.
According to a recent report by the OSIRIS-REx science team, Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, could potentially enter Earth’s orbit and impact the planet by September 2182. NASA has been monitoring Bennu, first discovered in 1999, for 25 years. Bennu passes near Earth every six years and has had three close encounters with Earth in 1999, 2005, and 2011.