Menacing asteroid racing towards Earth for dangerously close approach today
Apocalyptic movies like Armageddon have explored the possibility of total annihilation if an asteroid strikes on Earth. Although asteroids make close approaches to Earth nearly every day, none of them impact the surface. But what if an asteroid, which can end life, actually hits Earth? The plan to save the planet wouldn’t be as fancy as Bruce Willis drilling into the asteroid to nuke it. NASA has already carried out the testing of its DART Mission for planetary protection which involves crashing a spacecraft into an oncoming asteroid to successfully divert it from its path. This could help prevent an asteroid collision and save billions of lives.
But success depends on what kind of asteroid it is. If it is not hard or metallic, then the crash deflection strategy may well not work. For example, OSIRIS-REX spacecraft visited Asteroid Bennu and found that it is more a rubble pile than solid rock. The spacecraft was almost swallowed by the asteroid!
Although not a planet killer, NASA has issued an alert against this asteroid, which is dashing towards Earth for a close approach today.
Asteroid 2023 GR details
NASA has issued a warning about a particular asteroid called Asteroid 2023 GR, as it will be approaching very close to Earth. The asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of almost 32613 kilometers per hour and is set to make its closest approach to Earth today, April 18, at a distance of 7.1 million kilometers per hour.
As per NASA, Asteroid 2023 GR is nearly as big as an aircraft, with a width between 147 feet and 328 feet. It belongs to the Amor group, which are Earth-approaching near-Earth asteroids with orbits exterior to Earth’s but interior to Mars’, named after asteroid 1221 Amor.
More about NASA’s DART mission
In recent years, there has been a growing effort to track and study asteroids that could potentially threaten Earth. Last year, NASA carried out its first ever planetary defense test by smashing a spacecraft into an approaching asteroid with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to alter its course. NASA studied the asteroids Didymos and Dimorphos to better understand the potential threat of asteroid impacts and to develop techniques for deflecting them. ESA’s Hera spacecraft observed the result of the collision and reported the findings for further study.
Although no asteroid is expected to hit the planet and cause major catastrophe for at least next 100 years, these close approaches serve as a reminder of the importance of continuing to study and track asteroids to better understand and prepare for potential threats.