by Valerie DEKIMPE
Agence France Presse
PARIS, France (AFP) — A peanut-shaped asteroid 1.three kilometers (three,280 toes) throughout streaked past Earth on Wednesday, giving astronomers a uncommon likelihood to take a look at an enormous area rock up shut.
But not too shut.
Dubbed 2014-JO25, the asteroid got here nearest at 12:20 GMT and is now hurtling away from the middle of our photo voltaic system, stated Ian Carnelli, an astronomer from the European Space Agency (ESA).
“It does not represent a danger to our planet,” Carnelli instructed AFP, noting that the asteroid handed inside 1.eight million kilometers (1.1 million miles) of Earth — about 4 instances the gap to the moon.
The Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico — which has one of many world’s greatest radio telescopes — captured the 2014 JO25’s first photos, exhibiting an object that’s seemingly “two large asteroids that fused together”.
The area projectile will stay seen to onlookers outfitted with a telescope within the northern hemisphere on Wednesday night time.
Herewith, slightly primer on near-Earth asteroids and the hazard they pose (or not).
You might not see them, however area rocks whizz above our heads on a regular basis.
Patrick Michel, an astronomer on the Cote d’Azur Observatory, estimates that a mean of 10,000 to 100,000 tons of spatial materials come into our basic neighbourhood annually.
But massive asteroids passing this near Earth stay a rarity.
“The next one will pass by in 2027, a 800-metre long object that will come within” one Earth-to-the-Moon distance, he stated.
The final time 2014-JO25 was in our neighborhood was 400 years in the past, and its subsequent shut encounter with Earth received’t occur till someday after 2600.
2014-JO25 doesn’t symbolize a direct hazard. But it does fall inside the class of “potentially hazardous asteroids” that astronomers monitor for security, Pascal Descamps, an astronomer on the Paris Observatory instructed AFP by cellphone.
Any area rock not less than one kilometre (zero.6 miles) throughout that travels inside 7 million kilometres (four.three million miles) of Earth qualifies.
The excellent news is that scientists have recognized not less than 90 p.c of those flying hazards inside our photo voltaic system.
“There isn’t a single one that threatens us in the short term, meaning in the next few centuries,” Michel stated.
“There are thousands of asteroids larger than one kilometre,” he added. “The frequency with which they could hit us is once every 500,000 years, so we are facing a risk that is very low.”
A knock-out blow
Many sizeable asteroids have crashed into Earth or exploded in our environment, forsaking huge craters — and clues as to their composition.
More than 60,000 years in the past, a 30-metre (98-foot) rock crashed into what’s at present Arizona.
And 65 million years in the past, a good larger asteroid slammed into Earth slightly additional south, resulting in the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.
A one-kilometre asteroid hitting our planet at present could be like “a million Hiroshima bombs,” Michel stated, and set off the extinction of roughly 1 / 4 of all species.
“A 10-kilometre object… would provoke the extinction of our species,” he added.
What may be finished?
To forestall such a disaster, a staff of astronomers from NASA and the European Space Agency have drawn up plans for a reside take a look at in area: deviating a doubtlessly lethal asteroid.
An self-guided 400-kilo satellite tv for pc — hurtling at six kilometres per second — would goal an approaching asteroid.
The goal wouldn’t be to destroy the thing, however to deflect it, since fragments might then crash into Earth. A goal has been chosen.
So far, nevertheless, funding has not been authorised.
© Agence France-Presse