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Asteroid threat to Earth

Date: 03 September 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

NASA has been tracking asteroid 465824 2010 FR, which is twice as big as the Pyramid of Giza and is expected to cross the Earth’s orbit on September 6. It is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO) and a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

 

Background

NASA defines NEOs as comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood. These objects are composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles.

 

Details

  • NEOs occasionally move close to the Earth as they orbit the Sun, and when this happens, NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Study (CNEOS) determines their distance.

  • Asteroid 465824 2010 FR was discovered on March 18, 2010 by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS).

  • Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets. They are also called minor planets. As per NASA, 994,383 is the count for known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.

  • Most such objects can be found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The explanation for the concentration of asteroids in this belt comes from the formation of Jupiter, whose gravity brought an end to the formation of any planetary bodies in this region, as a result of which the smaller bodies kept colliding with each other, fragmenting into asteroids.

  • Other than those found in the main asteroid belt, asteroids can be classified into trojans, which are asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet. 

  • The third classification of asteroids can be as Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA), which have orbits that pass close by the Earth. Those that cross the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-crossers.

  • 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.

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

  • Over the years, scientists have suggested different ways to ward off such threats, such as blowing up the asteroid before it reaches the 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 a significant threat to Earth.

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