An asteroid two-and-a-half times the size of the Empire State Building is hurtling toward Earth, but it’s OK to look up.
That’s because it’s been on our radar for decades, giving us plenty of time to calculate its trajectory and confirm that it won’t be colliding with our planet and ending civilization as we know it when it flies by Earth on Tuesday, January 18.
As its name reveals, asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 was discovered in 1994. It is classified as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” due to its large size (3,280 feet or about 0.6 miles) and proximity to Earth during previous flybys, based on scientists’ calculations.
On Tuesday at 4:51 p.m. ET, the asteroid, traveling at around 43,000 mph (69,200 kph) will come within 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) of Earth, just over five times the distance between Earth and the moon.
It means that unlike the folks in the hit Netflix movie Don’t Look Up, we have nothing to worry about. And once it’s passed, it won’t be coming back for another 200 years (in the meantime, astronomers will be keeping their eyes peeled for other potentially hazardous asteroids).
One exciting element of the flyby of (7482) 1994 PC1 is that folks with even a basic telescope have a chance of spotting it as it speeds past. EarthSky offers a detailed explanation of where to look and precisely what to look out for as the asteroid makes its close approach.
The possibility of a massive space rock one day hitting Earth is a very real concern that prompted NASA to embark on its DART mission aimed at crashing a spacecraft directly into an asteroid to see if we can alter its path. If the test achieves its objective of altering the course of the asteroid, the system could become a viable way for Earth to protect itself from any hazardous objects spotted heading straight for our planet in the future.
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