An asteroid with 1.8 km in diameter will pass close to Earth this Friday (27). To give you an idea, its size is more than twice that of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, in Dubai, which measures just over 800 m.
According to NASA, 7335 (1989 JA) is the largest asteroid that will approach our planet this year.
It is larger than 99% of the 29,000 near-Earth objects (NEO) regularly tracked by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), coordinated by the US space agency.
Although NASA has classified the asteroid as “potentially dangerous”, it is expected to pass within 4 million kilometers of Earth. In practical terms, this is almost 10 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Scientists estimate that the asteroid is traveling at about 76,000 km/h, or 20 times faster than a speeding bullet.
After this episode, the rock will not make another journey close to us until June 23, 2055. But on that date, it will pass even further from Earth: about 70 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
“Near” is relative
NEOs refer to any astronomical object that passes within about 48 million kilometers of Earth’s orbit, according to the space agency.
NASA discovers about 30 new near-Earth objects every week. Most of these objects are extremely small – hence the curiosity and attention given to 7335 (1989 JA).
It fits into a class of asteroids called Apollo: those that orbit the Sun while periodically crossing Earth’s orbit. Astronomers know about 15,000 of these asteroids.
Although the chance of 7335 (1989 JA) hitting Earth is extremely low, NASA does not rule out the possibility of an asteroid collision in the near future.
In addition to monitoring NEOs, it recently launched a mission to test whether potentially dangerous asteroids can be deflected from a collision course with Earth.
In November 2021, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft was sent, which will collide head-on with the 160 m diameter asteroid Dimorphos sometime between September and December this year.
The collision will not destroy the asteroid, but it may slightly alter its orbital path.