Asteroids are chunks of space debris orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. These are rocky and metallic leftovers from the formation of the solar system, probably due to Jupiter’s strong gravitational influence tearing them apart. Asteroid impact on Earth is not news to us. A massive impact totally wiped out the dinosaurs, and chances of another one wiping us is probably on its way as we speak, NASA says. Huh?
Related media: Asteroid Bigger Than Empire State Building Heading Towards Earth
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is keeping a close eye on a huge asteroid that’s heading towards Earth, The Sun reports. Named Asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3), but for simplicity let’s call it “TZ3,” is expected to make a close approach this month. The asteroid, which astronomers predict to be 490 meters (1,608 feet) wide, is apparently the size of the iconic Empire State Building in New York City — 443 meters (1,454 feet) tall.
According to experts, an asteroid this size would cause some serious damage — similar to the one that hit the dinosaurs — if it makes an impact. However, there’s no need to panic though, as “TZ3” is expected to pass us from a distance of about 5.3 million kilometers (3.5 million miles) away. That seems far off, but in cosmic terms, this is not far away from the set danger zone at all.
What’s NASA Gonna Do?
According to NASA, if an asteroid comes within 7.3 million kilometers (4.65 million miles) and is over a certain size, it is flagged as “potentially hazardous.” And it seems this asteroid fit that definition: “close approach,” NASA stated. The asteroid was predicted to shoot past Earth on Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 5:18 p.m. EDT and 21:18 GMT, traveling at a speed of just over 28,970 kilometers per hour (18,000 miles per hour). Fast enough to fly by, huh? It seems.
Experts warn that Earth has no defense in the event of such an asteroid is make an impact. As billionaire and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted:
This has led to a controversial debate on Twitter (the social media giant he recently acquired in a pending controversial deal).
DART Mission On The Line
Fortunately, in November 2021, NASA launched a defense mission dubbed the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). This is the real-life version of the movie ‘Armageddon,’ as Bruce Willis embarked upon such a quest.
NASA had this to say about the DART mission:
“DART is the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact.”
In theory, the DART craft is set to slam right into a smaller size asteroid known as Dimorphos this September. This is how NASA plans to save planet Earth from potential targets like “TZ3.”
Let us know your thoughts. Could an asteroid impact Earth?
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, May 15, 2022.