Recently, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a startling discovery – a massive asteroid known as a “city killer” was hurtling through space on a trajectory towards Earth. This colossal space rock, measuring approximately 890 feet in diameter, is equivalent to the size of a US football stadium. Although it will pass by our planet at a distance of 1.77 million miles, experts emphasize the potential devastation it could cause if it were to collide with an inhabited area. In this article, we will explore the details of this impending encounter and the efforts made by scientists to safeguard our planet from such cosmic threats.
Due to its tremendous speed, this city killer asteroid will become a mere blur in the distant cosmos, invisible to the naked eye, and approximately 10,000 times fainter than the faintest stars visible to us. However, individuals fascinated by celestial events can still partake in the excitement. Gianluca Masi and his team from the Virtual Telescope Project will be broadcasting a live stream of the asteroid’s closest approach to Earth. The viewers will witness the asteroid as a minuscule dot astern other fixed tiny dots, commonly known as stars. The livestream, expected to last around 45 minutes, presents a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to observe this momentous event from the comfort of their homes.
Stepping into Orbit
Named Asteroid 2008 OS7, this celestial traveler follows an elliptical orbit around the Sun, taking approximately 962 days for each revolution. Once it completes its flyby near Earth, it will continue along its oval-shaped path within our Solar System. The elliptical nature of its orbit leads to significant variations in its proximity to our planet during subsequent encounters. Space Reference estimates that during its next close approach in July 2037, Asteroid 2008 OS7 will be approximately 9.7 million miles away from us.
Asteroid 2008 OS7 falls under the category of “potentially hazardous” asteroids, as defined by NASA, due to its size and its close proximity to Earth. To bear this classification, an asteroid must measure at least 460 feet in diameter and orbit within a distance of about 4.65 million miles from our planet. Currently, scientists have identified over 34,000 near-Earth objects, with just over 2,300 designated as potentially hazardous. Nonetheless, NASA suspects there may still be numerous undetected objects that pose a threat to our planet.
Future Safeguarding Efforts
If faced with an imminent collision from a colossal asteroid, we would require a minimum of five to ten years’ warning to devise strategies for destruction or deflection. In light of this, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is diligently working on the Near-Earth Object Surveyor mission, scheduled for launch in September 2027. The mission aims to place an infrared space telescope into Earth’s orbit, expanding NASA’s search for near-Earth objects that could potentially endanger our planet. By enhancing detection capabilities, scientists hope to mitigate the risks associated with these cosmic threats.
As Asteroid 2008 OS7 swiftly glides past Earth, we are reminded of the potential dangers lurking in the vast expanse of space. While this city killer asteroid remains a distant and barely perceptible entity to most humans, the livestream provided by Gianluca Masi and his team grants us a glimpse into this interstellar phenomenon. Furthermore, the proactive measures undertaken by NASA instill hope for a safer future. With the Near-Earth Object Surveyor mission on the horizon, scientists and astronomers continue their pursuit of protecting our planet from the uncertainties and perils of the cosmos.