Asteroids are rocky remnants from the beginning of our solar system, & @NASA is constantly watching the sky to find & track potential hazards. As of June 2021, 26,110 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered.More about @NASA’s #PlanetaryDefense efforts below! #AsteroidDay pic.twitter.com/WqD770ya7I— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) June 30, 2021
NASA has announced that a large asteroid will fly past Earth on July 24. The 220-metre diameter asteroid will be travelling through space at a speed of 18,000 miles an hour. The asteroid is as big as a stadium or thrice the size of the Taj Mahal.
The asteroid, named Asteroid 2008 GO20, will be rocketing past Earth at a distance of 2,605,509 miles or 0.028 AU. One AU represents the mean distance between the Earth and the sun.
Asteroids are generally composed of clay and silicate rocks and are remnants of rocky substances in the solar system that were not close enough to be subsumed into the terrestrial planets when the solar system was in its infancy around 4.5 billion years ago. The terrestrial planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
The solar system has a large number of asteroids within the Asteroid Belt that separates the gas giants -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- from the inner planets. However, there are tens of thousands of asteroids much closer to the Earth.
NASA Says Don’t Worry
NASA has said that there is nothing to worry about Asteroid 2008 GO20. Asteroids that orbit near the Earth present an existential threat to human civilisation. The dinosaurs were wiped out from Earth around 65 million years ago, after having existed for over 165 million years, by a large asteroid crashing into the Earth.
While humans have only existed on the planet for less than 300,000 years, the threat of asteroids crashing into the Earth has remained a concern for astronomers.
NASA has even set up the Joint Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which monitors near-Earth asteroids. Near-Earth asteroids are classified as those asteroids that are at a distance of 1.3 AU. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) has been helping scientists determine the size of these objects and recently the organisation announced that the telescope will continue its asteroid-tracking mission for another two years.
“As of June 2021, 26,110 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered,” the NASA Asteroid Watch Twitter handle said.
NASA will also be testing its DART Mission this year, which has been developed with the aim of changing the trajectory of so-called “killer asteroids.” Killer asteroids are asteroids with enough mass that are on a straight trajectory towards Earth and can cause the end of all life as we know it.