2.3 km wide asteroid rushes past Earth

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2.3 km wide asteroid rushes past Earth

Almost in time for International Asteroid Day on June 30, two large chunks will pass by Earth in just over 40 hours. The sizes of the two ‘potentially dangerous’ celestial bodies would have devastating consequences if they collided.

However, the European Space Agency’s Office for Asteroid Defense in Frascati near Rome provides clarity. It is said that there is “zero danger” from both cosmic chunks.

Accordingly, on Thursday the asteroid UL21, which has a diameter of about 2.3 kilometers, will fly past the Earth at a distance of about 6.6 million kilometers – equivalent to about 17 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. If an asteroid of this size were to hit, the consequences would be catastrophic.

For comparison, in February 2013, an asteroid about 20 meters high exploded above the city of Chelyabinsk. About 1,500 people were injured by the blast wave, most by shattering window glass.

Can be seen with a good telescope
Despite the great distance, the asteroid can be observed with a better telescope when the night sky is clear, according to ESA. The timing for this is also quite good: according to the ESA, the celestial body is particularly close at 10:14 PM CEST.

Just over 40 hours later, shortly before International Asteroid Day on Sunday, a 120 to 260 meter large so-called NEO (Near-Earth Object) will come much closer to Earth. At a distance of only about 180,000 miles, it is closer to our home planet than the moon (see chart below).

According to the ESA, it can also be observed with a telescope in the night sky, but probably not from Europe: the closest approach will take place at 3:46 PM CEST, when it is still light. This asteroid with the catalog name 2024 MK was reportedly only discovered on June 16.

The discovery of such a large celestial body just a week before the flight underlines the need to improve the ability to monitor potentially dangerous objects near Earth, ESA said.

There are 1.3 million known asteroids
Space agencies are currently aware of approximately 1.3 million asteroids. The scenarios for the next 100 years are played out again and again for the approximately 35,000 currently known near-Earth fragments.

Source: Krone

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