NASA has alerted that a massive asteroid has been spotted hurtling towards the planet. Earth in peril?
Nearly 100 tons of dust-sized particles are bombarded towards Earth every day. Once a year, a vehicle-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere, creating a giant fireball though it burns up before it reaches the surface. According to NASA, every 2,000 years, a football-field-sized asteroid hits Earth and causes major damage in the region. If you’re wondering about planet-killing asteroids, they only appear once every few million years. NASA has warned that an asteroid is heading towards Earth.
Key Details of Asteroid 2013 SL20
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office has issued an alert for an asteroid named Asteroid 2013 SL20. The 140-foot-wide asteroid is expected to fly past Earth closely today, October 14, at a distance of 2.4 million kilometers. The asteroid is already on its way to Earth, traveling at a staggering 43,812 kilometers per hour. NASA has issued a warning classifying asteroid 2013 SL20 as a “potentially hazardous object” due to how close it will pass by Earth. Although it does not collide with Earth, a slight deviation from its path due to Earth’s gravitational pull can send it flying towards Earth for impact.
According to the-sky.org, asteroid 2013 SL20 was discovered on September 25, 2013. It belongs to the Apollo asteroid group and orbits the Sun in approximately 411 days. During this orbit, the farthest point of the asteroid from the Sun is at a distance of 227 million kilometers and its closest point is 97 million kilometers away.
How is the orbit of an asteroid calculated?
An asteroid’s orbit is calculated by finding the elliptical path around the sun that best matches available observations of the object using various space and ground-based telescopes such as NASA’s NEOWISE telescope and its brand new Sentry II algorithm. That is, the calculated path of the object around the sun is adjusted until the predictions of where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky at several observed times match the positions where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky. The object was actually observed at these same times.