Asteroid as big as a blue whale is about to pass by Earth next week
According to NASA, asteroid 2021 GT2 is predicted to pass by Earth at a distance of 3.5 million km – about 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
Astronomers first discovered this meteorite last year and estimated its size at about 37 – 83 m, equivalent to a blue whale (average length 30 m and weight about 180 tons). Although the size of the 2021 GT2 is quite large, it is not large enough to be considered a potential danger to the Earth.
2021 GT2 is an Atenite asteroid, which means it orbits the Sun closer than Earth every 342 days, and its orbit crosses the Earth’s. Astronomers have discovered more than 1,800 asteroids like 2021 GT2 circling the Earth – some considered dangerous to our planet.
After June 6, 2021 GT2’s next near-Earth flyby will take place on January 26, 2034. At that time, this asteroid will pass by Earth at a distance of 14.5 million km.
Asteroids such as 2021 GT2 are classified as near-Earth objects – a term used to refer to asteroids and meteorites that rotate within 1.3 astronomical units around the Sun (astronomical units are approx. distance between the Earth and the Sun, equivalent to 149.6 million km).
NASA currently tracks tens of thousands of similar objects, predicting each object’s flight path over the next hundreds of years. Currently, researchers have not detected any near-Earth objects that could pose a threat. However, the house science still want to be ready if the orbit of a near-Earth asteroid suddenly changes after an unexpected event, such as a near-Earth asteroid colliding with another and creating a lot of debris larger than that of the solar system.
NASA is testing whether it is possible to change the trajectory of a large asteroid with a rocket. In November 2021, NASA launched a spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which is expected to crash directly into the 160-meter-wide Dimorphos asteroid in the fall of 2022. The impact will not destroy Dimorphos but enough to change its orbit slightly.
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