‘Potentially dangerous’ 500 meter asteroid set to zoom past Earth at 20,000 km / h

Image courtesy of NASA shows an artist’s concept of a broken-up asteroid. (REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/handout)

NASA has issued an alert that a “potentially hazardous asteroid” is on a “close approach” of the Earth. However, it is nothing to be alarmed at, as the asteroid is expected to zoom past the planet about 3 million miles away.

The huge space rock, known as the asteroid 2016 NF23 and is estimated to be between 230 and 525 feet in diameter, zipped past the Earth on Aug. 29 at a speed of 9.04 km per second, or about 20,000 km per hour, the government space agency said on the Approaches Earth page.

It is the third largest near-Earth object (NEO) on the page, behind two other asteroids that will fly past the Earth in the beginning of September: 2001 RQ17 and 2015 FP118.


At 230 metres, it would be something smaller than a Boeing 747. On the high end of the estimate, and 525 feet, it would be larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is approximately 455 meters high.

Near-Earth objects frequently fly through the planet, although “potentially dangerous objects” are those that are smaller than 0.05 au (astronomical units) of the planet, or about 5 million kilometers.

An asteroid that comes within 4.6 million miles of Earth with a diameter of more than 500 metres is referred to as “potentially dangerous,” according to NASA.


Asteroid 2016 NF23 also has an absolute magnitude of 22.9, above the 22.0 threshold to be classified as a potentially hazardous object.

In April, an asteroid the size of a football field – 2018 GE3 – just came 119,500 km of the Earth’s atmosphere, about half of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

In June, NASA put out an updated plan for the protection of the Earth and predict the likelihood of a threat of a near-Earth object (NEO) with five goals, including improved detection and improved modelling.

The 20-page plan that describes steps the U.S. should take to better prepare objects, such as asteroids and comets within 30 million km of the planet.


In addition to the improve of the NEO-detection, identification and characterisation of the possibilities and the improvement of the modeling prediction, the plan is also aimed at developing technologies for deflecting NEOs, the intensification of international cooperation and the creation of new NEO impact, emergency procedures and action protocols.


NASA notes there are more than 18,300 included NEOs and a little more than 8,000 of them are more than 100 metres or greater.

In 2016, NASA opened a new office to track asteroids and comets that come too close to the Earth, known as the Planetary Defense coordination office (PDCO). The PDCO will formalize the agency’s existing programs for the detection and tracking of NEOs, NASA has been studied since the 1970s.

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia


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