National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been tracking an asteroid which is twice as big as the Egyptian monument, Pyramid of Giza. The giant celestial object is expected to enter Earth’s orbit at around 15:30 IST on September 6. The asteroid is said to be up to 270 metres wide and 886 feet tall. The asteroid has been classified as an Apollo asteroid because it will be crossing Earth’s orbit. It was first spotted by astronomers a decade ago and was called 465824 (2010 FR). The space rock has been termed as a Near-Earth Object (NEO) by the organisation. Any comet or asteroid within 1.3 astronomical units from the Sun fits into this category meaning it will not harm human life, though asteroids like these are harmless because of their distance from Earth, they can come closer than expected due to the gravitational tug of other planets which can cause a change in the trajectory of their orbit. The Yarkovsky effect can also nudge an asteroid orbit. The effect occurs when a space rock is heated in direct sunlight and cools down to release radiation from its surface which may cause a change in the orbit. In this particular case, NASA has ruled out any probability of impact on Earth and does not expect this to change though there is also the possibility of asteroids or fragmented asteroids, being redirected towards us after colliding with other space rocks.
NASA said: “Occasionally, asteroids’ orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter. Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet.”
The Asteroid 2011 ES4 will be closer to our planet than the Moon on September 1. The estimated distance of the asteroid from Earth is 1.2 lakh km. Another asteroid named 2020 QG5 is also approaching Earth again after 16 years on the same day. Both of these asteroids aren’t really a threat to our planet because of the distance and its small size which will be destroyed as soon as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA said: “Because of the ongoing search efforts to find nearly all the large NEOs, objects will occasionally be found to be on very close Earth approaching trajectories. Given the extremely unlikely nature of such a collision, almost all of these predictions will turn out to be false alarms. However, if an object is verified to be on an Earth colliding trajectory, it seems likely that this collision possibility will be known several years prior to the actual event.”
Currently, around 2,000 asteroids, comets and other objects are being tracked by Astronomers.