File illustration of an asteroid (Texas A&M)
A newly discovered asteroid will fly safely past the Earth today (Feb. 9) may be larger than a celestial body that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, five years ago. The new-found intruder, the so-called 2018 CB, is estimated at 50 to 130 meters in diameter, and will fly by the Earth at about 2:30 p.m. PST (5:30 pm EST).
“Asteroids of this size are not often approach so close to our planet — and maybe only one or two times per year,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, in a statement from the agency.
2018 CB is a small asteroid by the heavenly standards; the largest asteroid in the solar system, Vesta is about 326 miles across. (Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt at 590 miles across — about the size of Texas. It is sometimes referred to as an asteroid.)
But if the inhabitants of Chelyabinsk in 2013, something 2018 CB’s size can cause a lot of damage. That year, an object approximately 51 metres in diameter exploded above the city, while hurtling through the atmosphere of the Earth, breaking the glass and causing hundreds of injuries.
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The NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey spotted the 2018 CB and other asteroid, 2018 CC, Feb. 4. While 2018 CB is not entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the object will whiz by safely less than 20 percent of the distance from the Earth to the moon.
Coincidentally, the 2018 CB arrival comes just days after two other asteroid safely passed the Earth. On Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 4), asteroid 2002 AJ129 came by the planet at a distance of only 2.6 million miles — 10 times the distance to the moon. (The average distance between the Earth and the moon is about 238,855 miles, or 384,400 km.)
Then, on Tuesday (Feb. 6), asteroid 2018 CC its closest approach, at 114,000 miles, approximately halfway between the Earth and the moon. Astronomers have, however, is known about this asteroid since 2002. The measure from 0.3 km to 0.75 miles.
NASA and the Planetary Defense coordination office regularly searching for and tracking of asteroids with different partner telescopes. The goal is to catalog all near-Earth objects that may pose a danger to the planet. Now, the agency has not announced the detection of imminent threats. He publishes all of its asteroid findings online in the Small-Body Database Browser, available free of charge online.
There are also several asteroid missions in space that are ongoing, or coming up soon, are designed to obtain more information about how asteroids are formed and where they are located.
NASA’s dedicated asteroid-hunting telescope, NEOWISE, will conclude the mission of this year when her job brings the insturment in a zone with too much sunlight for the observations. The agency’s OSIRIS-ReX and the japanese Hayabusa-2 — are on their way to various asteroids to collect samples for later analysis back on Earth. Two new NASA missions, called Lucy and Psyche, will fly past eight asteroids in the 2020 and 2030s.
NASA is in a constant quest to catalogue 90 percent of asteroids larger than 460 feet wide and within 4.65 million miles of Earth, or about 20 times the distance from the Earth to the moon, according to the agency. In 2005, Congress tasked NASA with the completion of this work in 2020, but multiple reports suggest that the agency will miss that deadline. NASA has, however, to meet Congress’ goal of finding 90 percent of all Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) that are 0.6 km wide in 2010.
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