An asteroid the size of a skyscraper is about to pass close to Earth

An asteroid the size of a skyscraper is about to pass close to Earth

Just in time for Halloween, a skyscraper-sized asteroid will fly over the Earth in close quarters. This is what we learn from NASA data: called 2022 RM4, the celestial body would have a diameter between 330 and 740 meters (just under the height of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, of 828 meters) and its closest approach to our planet (2.3 million kilometers, almost six times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon) will take place on November 1st, at a speed of about 84,500 kilometers per hour. Due to its size, speed and distance with which it will pass beyond the Earth, the celestial body is part of the "potentially dangerous" asteroids but, despite the recurrence in which it happens, there is little to be afraid of: it is a harmless approach, which, however, can be observed by fans and in streaming.

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Monitoring for possible threats to the Earth

For several decades, scientists have been developing plans for monitoring, warning and deflection strategies, should an asteroid be in an orbit that could endanger the Earth. NASA's Dart mission, which last September 27 proved to be able to deflect the trajectory of the asteroid Dimorphos, is just one example, but astronomers constantly monitor our skies to study asteroids and comets and detect any threats. In fact, 2022 RM4 was detected by the Jet propulsion laboratory (Jpl) of the California Institute of Technology, which runs the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, the center that tracks celestial bodies traveling close to Earth's orbit, called objects. close to the Earth (better known by their English name and the relative acronym Near-Earth objects, Neo). These are mainly comets and asteroids (the vast majority is represented by the latter) driven by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets in orbits that allow them to enter the vicinity of the Earth. A Neo, in fact, is defined as an asteroid or comet that approaches our planet at less than 1.3 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun (about 194 million kilometers).

Gianluca Masi / The Virtual Telescope Project

Although they enter the vicinity of our planet, most of the Neos do not represent any danger to the Earth and its inhabitants; however, there is a category particularly monitored by scientists who deal with objects close to the Earth: the so-called potentially dangerous asteroids, or those asteroids that, based on their size and distance from our planet, have the potential to pose a threat. Specifically, all asteroids with a distance of less than 7.4 million kilometers or larger than 140 meters are considered potentially dangerous.

A safe approach

Due to its characteristics, 2022 RM4 has been classified as a potentially dangerous asteroid, even if in reality, in this case, the danger remains - in fact - only potentially. Discovered at a distance of about 91 million kilometers from Earth on 12 September 2022 by Pan-Starrs (Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System), a system of telescopes and cameras for detecting celestial bodies located in the Haleakalā observatory, in Hawaii, scientists have estimated that its size could vary between 300 and 740 meters in diameter. 2022 RM4 will reach the closest point to our planet on November 1, 2022, at 19.27 Italian time, when it will be 2.3 million kilometers from Earth. Such a distance, equal to almost six times the distance between Earth and the Moon, which makes the approach of the asteroid safe. At that juncture 2022 RM4, which will have more or less the brightness of Pluto, will be observable by expert amateurs, with a telescope of at least 8 inches; for all the others, the Virtual Telescope Project has organized a live streaming.

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