NASA Is Tracking An Enormous Asteroid On A Collison Course With Earth's Orbit

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NASA astronomers and scientists will be keeping a close eye on an asteroid that is heading for a rendezvous with Earth's orbit later this week. Potentially hazardous asteroid (199145) 2005 YY128 is massive, and it is thought to measure between 1,870 and 4,265 feet across.

Asteroid 199145 was first detected by the Spacewatch survey on December 30, 2005. The image shown below is a 120-second exposure taken remotely by the "Elena" robotic unit at Virtual Telescope on February 9, 2023. According to the tracking by the telescope, it is currently moving relatively slowly. At the time of imaging, the asteroid was about 45.06 lakh kilometers from Earth.

image of asteroid 199145
Image of asteroid 199145 captured by "Elena" robotic unit

According to NASA, any asteroid that is less than 82 feet across (25 meters) does not pose a risk to Earth. This is because it will more than likely burn up in the Earth's atmosphere before reaching the surface. If any debris does survive entry, it will likely cause little to no damage. However, asteroid 199145 is much larger and while it is believed to pose no risk, it is still an excellent opportunity for astronomers to get a closer look at it.

The asteroid is reportedly larger than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. and is expected to have a minimum distance to Earth of nearly 12 times the average lunar distance, or 4.5 lakh kilometers. It will reach this distance on February 16, 2023, at 00:46 UTC (source NASA/JPL).

According to data collected by NASA's Centre for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), asteroid 199145 will be the fourth closest flyby out of 35,000 past and future asteroids to make a nearby pass of Earth between the years 1900 and 2200.

There are a few other asteroids that will make nearby passes of Earth this year. Asteroid 365505 (2003 UC20) is a whopping 6,230 feet across and will get as close as 51.49 lakh kilometers in November. Another asteroid, 436774 (2012 KY3) is about 3,937 feet across and tall, and is expected to make a close flyby of Earth in April. Asteroid 139622 (2001 QQ142) is roughly the same size as 436774 and will pass close to Earth in December.