Asteroid 2023 QC5 headed for its first-ever close approach of Earth

NASA’s historic Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was a successful attempt to divert an oncoming asteroid from its path of collision with Earth. Now, the European Space Agency is preparing to study the aftermath of the collision between the DART spacecraft and the Dimorphos asteroid with its Hera spacecraft. It will fly to the asteroid to survey the aftermath of impact and gather information such as the size of the impact crater, the mass of the asteroid and its make-up and internal structure.

NASA, with the help of its advanced ground and space-based telescopes such as Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), and Pans-STARRS1, has discovered an asteroid that will buzz Earth in the coming days.

Asteroid 2023 QC5 details

According to details revealed by NASA, an asteroid, identified as Asteroid 2023 QC5, is close to Earth, travelling at 27327 kilometers per hour. It will make its closest approach to the Earth on September 8. On that day, it will come as close as 4 million kilometers to the planet. Astonishingly, this will be Asteroid 2023 QC5’s first-ever close approach to Earth. As per NASA, no other close approach has been predicted for the near future.

This space rock belongs to the Amor group of Near-Earth Asteroids which are Earth-approaching near-Earth asteroids with orbits exterior to Earth but interior to Mars’, named after asteroid 1221 Amor, which was discovered by Belgian astronomer E. Delporte in 1932.

In terms of size, NASA estimates it to be around 79 feet wide, making it almost as big as an aircraft, and slightly bigger than the Chelyabinsk asteroid. Although its small size disqualifies it from being a Potentially Hazardous Object, it could still cause damage if it impacts the surface, as evidenced by the Chelyabinsk incident.

These close approaches have served as a reminder of the threat posed by these space rocks and highlighted the importance of tracking and studying them. But how does NASA do so?

How does NASA track an asteroid – The process explained

When NASA’s telescopes track a new Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), astronomers measure the asteroid’s observed positions in the sky and report them to the Minor Planet Center. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) then uses that data to determine the asteroid’s most likely orbit around the Sun, according to NASA.

To assess whether an impact is possible and narrow down where the true orbit may be, NASA’s new Sentry II then uses a new algorithm and selects random points throughout the entire uncertainty region. This allows Sentry-II to zero in on more very low probability impact scenarios.

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