In a span of two days, NASA detected five asteroids of varying sizes passing by Earth, at a distance of half a million miles this week. Fortunately, none of these asteroids pose any threat to our planet.
According to NASA’s Asteroid Watch database, the five asteroids, ranging in size from that of an airplane to a bus, crossed Earth’s orbit on Friday, September 8, and Saturday, September 9.
Asteroid 2023 RG:
The first one, asteroid 2023 RG, with a width of approximately 12 meters, flew past Earth at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers.
Asteroid GE 2023:
Next, asteroid GE 2023, measuring 27 meters in width, followed by asteroid QC5 2023, with a width of 25 meters, and GE 2020, measuring 8 meters in width. These three asteroids approached at distances of around 1 million miles, 4 million kilometers, and 5.7 million kilometers from Earth, respectively.
Asteroid 2023 RL:
Lastly, asteroid 2023 RL, which is 7 meters wide, passed by Earth at an extremely close cosmic distance of 755,000 kilometers on September 9.
NASA classifies any space object within 193 million kilometers of Earth as a “near-Earth object.” Furthermore, objects larger in size within 7.5 million kilometers of Earth’s orbit are categorized as “potentially hazardous” by NASA.
Tracking Near-Earth Objects
NASA continuously tracks the positions and orbits of approximately 28,000 asteroids using the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), a network of four telescopes capable of scanning the entire night sky every 24 hours.
According to Live Science, “NASA has projected the paths of all these near-Earth objects through the end of the century. Earth does not face a catastrophic asteroid collision hazard for at least the next 100 years.”
While the rapid approach of these five asteroids does not pose a threat to Earth, it’s important to note that smaller asteroids can still be dangerous. In March 2021, a meteor the size of a bowling ball exploded over Vermont with the force of 200 kilograms of TNT. More dramatically, the explosion of an 18-meter-wide meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 generated an explosion equivalent to about 400 to 500 kilotons of TNT, or 26 to 33 times the energy released by the Hiroshima bomb.
Asteroid Deflection Measures
Space agencies worldwide are actively exploring methods to divert hazardous asteroids if they happen to be on a collision course with Earth. On September 26, 2022, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft successfully altered the path of the Dimorphos asteroid by colliding with it.
China is also in the early planning stages for an asteroid deflection mission. This involves launching 23 Long March 5 rockets at the Bennu asteroid, which is projected to come within 7.4 million kilometers of Earth’s orbit between 2175 and 2199.
In conclusion, while the recent detection of these five asteroids posed no danger to Earth, ongoing efforts and research into asteroid deflection methods are crucial to safeguard our planet from potential future threats.