An asteroid taller than the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, will make its closest approach to Earth on Wednesday evening — but will pass at a safe distance.
Asteroid 2005 YY128, estimated to be more than 1,200 feet across, will hover within 2.8 million miles of our planet at 7:46 p.m. ET, which will be the closest to our planet in 400 years.
NASA has confirmed the flyby, noting that the space rock has been on the agency’s radar for 17 years.
Twitter is flooded with messages stating that ‘the asteroid could potentially crash into Earth’s orbit’, but the European Space Agency assures that we are safe and that ‘you can’t crash into orbit anyway’.
However, astronomers look to the massive rock as a reminder that space is teaming up with massive objects that could one day invade our world.
The asteroid is taller than the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It will make its closest approach to Earth tonight at 7:46 p.m. ET
According to data collected by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), 2005 YY128 will be the fourth-closest flyby of 35,000 past and future asteroids making a close pass from Earth between the years 1900 and 2200.
Paul Chodas, the director of the Center of Near Earth Object Studies at NASA, told USA TODAY, “Yes, the asteroid is probably quite large, probably between 1,903 and 4,265 feet.”
But he added: “The asteroid poses absolutely no risk to humans.”
Chodas went on to explain that if 2005 YY128 had been a threat, NASA would have predicted the danger as early as 2005 or 2006 when the asteroid was first sighted.
And this would have put astronomers in gear to find a way to deduce it.
However, it wasn’t until 2021 that NASA implemented such a solution when it diverted a small asteroid from orbit.
The asteroid was observed using the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona.
When such discoveries are made, the protocol is to report findings to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, housed at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This allows NASA to predict an asteroid’s trajectory to determine its threat to Earth.
The asteroid (shown with arrow) was observed in 2004 using the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona. Scientists said the asteroid poses no threat to Earth
Twitter is flooded with messages saying the ‘asteroid could potentially crash into Earth’s orbit’, but the European Space Agency is making sure we’re safe and that ‘you can’t crash into orbit anyway’
NASA conducted its first planetary defense test in September 2022 when it sent a craft to collide with asteroid Dimorphos as it traveled at 22,000 miles per hour.
The mission was to determine if this method could change the orbit of an incoming asteroid.
‘Impact Success!’ NASA tweeted after the DART spacecraft collided with the 560-foot asteroid, about 6.7 million miles from Earth.
Scientists believe the impact carved a crater, sent streams of rock and debris into space, and altered the asteroid’s trajectory.
By attacking Dimorphos head-on, NASA hopes it has pushed it into a smaller orbit, making it 10 minutes shorter than the time it takes to orbit Didymos, which is currently 11 hours and 55 minutes.
The spacecraft used kinetic impact, which sends one or more large, fast spacecraft into the path of an approaching near-Earth object.
Such a mission may bring back memories of a Hollywood disaster movie like Armageddon, but this is real and could save Earth from colliding with a deadly space rock.
As the craft propelled itself autonomously, like a self-guided rocket, for the last four hours of the mission, the camera began beaming down the very first images of Dimorphos before slamming into the surface.
The closer DART got, the more detailed the asteroid appeared, and the final shot was a close-up view of the asteroid’s rocky surface – before the screen went black.
This meant that DART had hit the asteroid and the mission was complete.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is launching a mission in 2024 that will send a probe to Dimorphos and Didymos to study the pair in more detail.
An asteroid the size of Dimorphos could cause continent-wide destruction on Earth, while the impact of an asteroid the size of the larger Didymos would be felt worldwide.
Asteroid 2005 YY128, due to pass Earth tonight, would also cause destruction if it collided with Earth – but luckily it passes millions of miles from our planet.