An asteroid almost the size of Eiffel Tower will fly past the Earth today and as we write, it will already be flying towards our plant. The massive space rock is predicted to fly at a distance of 7.4 million kilometres from our planet.
Asteroid 2021 CO247, which is just shy of the Eiffel Tower in length, is supposedly flying towards Earth at the moment. According to the Central for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA, it is not a threat.
The close approach of 2021 CO247 is followed by a spectacular space show on January 6 where five other asteroids flew by Earth. One of these space rocks was 2008 AF4, which is said to be nearly a kilometre wide. It has been classified as a “potentially hazardous” Apollo class asteroid by the CNEOS. It was travelling at a speed of 39,564 kmph.
The smaller asteroids are 2019 YB4, 2020 YA1, and 2020 YP4. According to NASA, none of the asteroids pose an immediate threat to the planet and will likely fly by at a very safe distance from us. 2019 YB4 flew around 6.4 million kilometres away, 2020 YA1 was 1.5 million kilometres away, and lastly, 2020YA1 will be at a distance 2.1 million kilometres.
While asteroid fly-bys are quite a regular phenomenon, it is rare that five such space giants fly around the same time on the same day or so, close to one another. Space agencies are calling the day as a “feast” for stargazers and astro-enthusiasts.
Near Earth Object classification
The CNEOS at NASA classifies any solar body as Near Earth Object (NEO) when their orbit around the Sun is 0.9 to 1.3 astronomical unit. This means, their orbits are closer to the distance between the Earth and the Sun, hence the space object comes in proximity to our planet’s own orbit. It is not necessary for the two orbits to collide, they are generally just around each other. Most of the NEOs are asteroids but a small portion is comets. There are 20,000 known NE asteroids, according to CNEOS.
The NEOs are then classified as “potentially hazardous” based on their size, closest estimated approach to Earth, and their ,speed. So a very large asteroid at a medium speed at a distance equal to the Moon is less dangerous than a smaller asteroid flying into the orbit at a very fast speed.