Two asteroids projected to come zooming past planet Earth on 2 March have had NASA on alert, with its Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) tracking the wayward space rocks that possess orbits intersecting Earth’s trajectory.
The first asteroid to venture into Earth’s vicinity has been dubbed 2020 DZ3. With an orbit that goes through the paths of Mercury and Venus, according to CNEOS’ database, the asteroid has built up a speed of over 48,000 miles per hour and boasts an estimated diameter of about 154 feet (47 Meters). This asteroid’s next near-Earth approach is calculated to happen on 28 September 2022.
The other space traveler is trailing behind, both smaller and slower than 2020 DZ3.
Labelled as 2020 DD4 and following an elongated path that goes beyond Mars’ orbit, it measures about 43 feet wide and is flying across the Solar System with a velocity of around 24,000 miles per hour ( 38624,256 km). This space visitor will be back again to zoom closer past Earth on 11 February 2033.
The two asteroids fall into the category of Apollo asteroids, which have natural orbits that cross Earth’s path as it goes around the Sun.
Bearing in mind the afore-mentioned data, should the trajectory of the space rocks alter slightly it would set them on a direct collision course with Earth.
Expert calculations show that 2020 DZ3, due to its size and speed, could potentially result in an impact, while 2020 DD4 would most likely burn up in the atmosphere.
The first such Apollo-class asteroid with an Earth-crossing orbit was discovered in 1918 by Max Wolf, observing from Heidelberg, Germany.
There are 240 known Apollos, but it is believed that there are at least 2000 Earth-crossers boasting diameters of 1 km or larger, which pose a very real, albeit statistically unlikely, threat to Earth.
There has recently been a great deal of interest in the dangers of an Earth-crossing asteroid hitting the Earth, despite the relatively minor probability of such an event occurring.
A collision 66 million years ago between the Earth and an object estimated to be 10 kilometres (6 miles) wide is suggested as having caused the Chicxulub crater and the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, believed by many experts to have led to the extinction of most dinosaurs.