Our solar system is overflowing Space rocks.
Fortunately, NASA And other agencies closely monitor asteroids passing through Earth’s cosmic neighborhood, detecting hundreds each year, and finding nothing threatening. Our planet Over the next 100 years.
On January 26, a small asteroid (“the size of a box truck,” NASA said) passed within 2,200 miles of Earth. The rock, named “2023 BU” because it is so small, was only discovered on January 21 when an amateur astronomer traveled nearby. It was never a threat. Even if it hits Earth, it will “disintegrate harmlessly in the atmosphere.” NASA has explained(opens in new window).
The mega-comet passing through our solar system is 85, yes 85, miles across
Here’s what you need to know about asteroid 2023 BU (passed over the southern tip of South America) and other near-Earth asteroids:
1. NASA has not issued a warning about asteroid 2023 BU
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which runs the agency Center for Near-Earth Object Studies(opens in new window)Tracks passing asteroids Relatively close For Earth, space is vast, even though many of these rocks are millions of miles away. Technically, a Near Earth Object (NEO) is one Going into about 30 million miles(opens in new window) Our planet revolves around the sun.
2023 BU, then, easily qualifies as a near-Earth object. But because it was never a threat — it had no chance of hitting Earth and was small enough to pose a danger — NASA and other U.S. agencies didn’t issue warnings about it. You may have read the sensational headlines claiming the claim NASA has warned that the asteroid will pass close to Earth. But that is wrong. A warning would be a serious escalation, indicating a threat.
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“We didn’t really issue any warnings,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary protection officer. 2021 told Mashable. If a rock larger than 30 feet wide has more than a one percent chance of hitting Earth, NASA will issue an official warning to the White House and other government leaders, who will assess the situation and inform the public. strike.
in this situation, NASA has released some brief information(opens in new window) in 2023 BE and how it was discovered. Actually, it’s an interesting little phenomenon. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches of a near-Earth object ever recorded,” NASA engineer David Farnocchia said in a statement.
2. Asteroids are usually not a threat to Earth
In general, the larger the asteroid, the greater the threat it poses to Earth.
The rock that killed the dinosaurs is in the largest asteroid class, more than 0.6 miles wide. A dino rock A roughly six mile wide behemoth(opens in new window). But these are very rare visitors. As Mashable reported last year:
- No known asteroids More than 460 feet across will threaten Earth in the next century.
- Impacts of objects 460 feet in diameter occur every 10,000 to 20,000 years.
- “Dinosaur-killing” impacts from rocks occur on 100-million-year timescales of a half-mile or more.
Importantly, asteroids less than 460 feet away may pose an even greater threat. Even an asteroid 100 to 170 feet across A place like Kansas City can be destroyed.(opens in new window) Home to half a million people. Therefore surveys for large and “small” rocks are essential.
NASA graphic showing known asteroids (blue dots) in our solar system.
3. Astronomers observe dangerous asteroids
Large, specialized telescopes are dedicated to discovering new near-Earth asteroids. Taxpayer money is involved: NASA has a congressionally-directed mandate to detect 90 percent of all space rocks 460 feet wide or larger.
- Pan-Stars: The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System atop Maui consists of two telescopes scanning the sky for unusual movement. With its keen vision, Pan-STARRS 253 of 456 Near-Earth Asteroids Discovered in 2021 460 Feet Wide(opens in new window)and has been at the forefront of these discoveries for the past decade.
- Catalina Sky Survey: Three of the survey’s telescopes are located in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona. Pan-STARRS tends to detect NEOs wider than 460 feet (or 140 meters), Catalina. Tends to find a few more NEOs overall(opens in new window). That’s good, because anything less than 140 meters can be even more devastating.
- Atlas: The Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System acts like a giant floodlight around Earth. It has three telescopes: one in Hawaii, one in Chile, and one in South Africa, which can scan the entire sky every night. They can find one over 65 feet in a few days.
So far, astronomers have found 40 percent of rocks that are 460 feet across or larger, with hundreds of rocks being discovered each year. Meanwhile, they It identified 95 percent of the largest “planet-killer” asteroids.
Chart showing how many near-Earth asteroids have been discovered so far.
Importantly, some small asteroids will inevitably slip through the survey cracks. That’s why other astronomical sleuths are so valuable. Amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered 2023 BU, reported it to other astronomers, and an international organization that monitors such objects. Minor Planet Center(opens in new window). A few days later, NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies confirmed the asteroid and its trajectory.
If you hear about an asteroid “heading for Earth,” remember that it’s not a threat (meteorites regularly come within millions of miles of Earth), experts are keeping a watchful eye on the skies, and if there’s any major threat to Earth, space agencies know where it’s headed (probably the vast ocean). ) and is similar to NASA to provide coherent information about what you need to do (usually nothing).
Enjoy the sky. Yes, there’s a healthy respect for rocks orbiting large space rocks the sun. But if you see a warning about an incoming asteroid on the Internet, approach it with a strong dose of skepticism.
This story has been updated with more information about asteroid 2023 BU.