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'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid Bigger than the Statue of Unity to Zoom Past Earth on June 1

Representative image.

Representative image.

66 million years ago, when an asteroid a few kilometres in diameter hit the Earth, it wiped out three-fourths of the plant and animal species on our blue planet.

According to NASA, a potentially hazardous asteroid KT1, about 186 metres in size — bigger than 182 metres long statue of unity — is going to pass within a distance of 72 lakh kilometres from the Earth on June 1. The distance, despite being 20 times higher than the distance between the Earth and the moon, is considered “near” on the astronomical scale.

Jet Propulsion Laboratories, which is funded by NASA and managed by the California Institute of Technology, manages a dashboard Asteroid Watch, according to which, KT1 is one of the five closest asteroid approaches happening from May 31 to June 2. A bus-sized asteroid is passing on May 31, within a distance which is one-third of the distance between Earth and moon. Other approaches are two house-sized asteroids and one aeroplane sized asteroid, passing with distances that range from 11 lakh kilometres to 59 lakh kilometres.However, because of their small sizes, they are not considered potentially dangerous by the space agency.

On the other hand, KT1 is much bigger in size. NASA categorises any asteroid that is bigger than 150 metres and passes within 75 lakh kilometres as potentially hazardous. Such celestial bodies, according to NASA, “warrant close observation,” because over time, changing gravitational pull coming from moving planets can change the path of an asteroid making it Earth-crossing.

An asteroid of such size, if it hits the Earth, can have a devastating impact on our blue planet. Fortunately, NASA has developed technologies that can send a huge mass to collide with a dangerous asteroid to break it and deflect its path. Before humanity evolved to be able to break them away, the Earth has been hit by many small asteroids and meteoroids in the past. 66 million years ago, when an asteroid a few kilometres in diameter hit the Earth, it wiped out three-fourths of the plant and animal species on our blue planet. Dinosaurs were one of them. The collision produced energy equivalent to several million nuclear weapons exploding simultaneously.

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first published:May 31, 2021, 16:28 IST