'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid the Size of a 747 Will Fly Past Earth Next Week

Thursday, 23 August 2018 - 12:34PM
Astronomy
Space
Earth
Thursday, 23 August 2018 - 12:34PM
'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid the Size of a 747 Will Fly Past Earth Next Week
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Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
While NASA's OSIRIS REx mission heads to the asteroid Bennu and JAXA's Hayabusa2 investigates Ryugu, another asteroid has decided to come to us—or at least come perilously close. The asteroid 2016 NF23 will pass by the Earth within 13 lunar distances (around 3 million miles) on August 29th, and it's a big one.

It's tough to get an exact bead on 2016 NF23's size, but current estimates range from 230-525 feet wide, putting it somewhere between the length of a Boeing 747 jet and the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Considering that the 10,000-ton Chelyabinsk meteor was only about 56 feet wide and still managed to explode with the force of 30 atomic bombs, a collision with 2016 NF23 would be terrifying.

Right now, the Earth isn't in any danger from 2016 NF23, but NASA has already put together plans to deal with a cataclysmic asteroid impact, provided we get a few decades of advanced warning and enough time to build some spaceships (and secure a couple dozen nuclear weapons). The asteroid Bennu is actually considered one of the more likely candidates to hit Earth sometime in the future, though the chance of it actually doing so is still incredibly small.

Currently, however, NASA only seems to get a few weeks advance notice before a potentially dangerous asteroid passes close to Earth, and sometimes misses them entirely. If you're Nathan P. Myhrvold, a former Microsoft exec and amateur scientist, then that starts to look kind of fishy—according to him, NASA's NeoWISE database (which catalogues and tracks near-earth objects like asteroids) is filled with flaws and bad data, which NASA has continually covered up or refused to acknowledge. Though, to be fair, the first paper he published refuting NASA's data was filled with a lot of embarrassing errors.

If you want to see 2016 NF23's path through the solar system, you can check the NASA page for it here.

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