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Asteroid 2020 ND

Date: 21 July 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

NASA has issued a warning that a huge Asteroid 2020 ND will move past Earth on July 24. The size and distance from Earth make it a threat.

 

Background

The asteroid, about 170 metres-long, will be as close as 0.034 astronomical units to our planet and is travelling at a speed of 48,000 kilometres per hour. Its distance from Earth has placed it in the “potentially dangerous” category.

 

Details

  • Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth. Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.

  • NASA classifies objects like these as ‘near-Earth objects’ (NEOs) as they get nudged by other planets’ gravitational attraction resulting in their proximity to our solar system.

  • It is not necessary that asteroids classified as PHAs will impact the Earth. It only means there is a possibility for such a threat.

  • By monitoring these PHAs and updating their orbits as new observations become available, we can better predict the close-approach statistics and thus their Earth-impact threat.

  • NEOs (Near Earth Objects) are comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits which allows them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

  • These objects are composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, and occasionally approach close to the Earth as they orbit the Sun.

  • The objects that can cause significant damage upon impacting are larger than 30 metres. Every year, about 30 small asteroids hit the Earth, but do not cause any major damage on the ground.

  • NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program finds, tracks and characterises over 90 per cent of the predicted number of NEOs that are 140 metre or larger which according to the space agency are of “the greatest concern” due to the level of devastation that their impact is capable of causing.

  • Over the years, scientists have suggested different ways to ward off such threats, such as blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth or deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft.

  • The most drastic measure undertaken so far is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which includes NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Hera.

  • The mission’s target is Didymos, a binary near-Earth asteroid, one of whose bodies is of the size that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth.

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