Astronomical objects such as asteroids and comets abound in quantity in all corners of the Solar System and come close to Earth, although not always in a dangerous way. This is why NASA keeps a watchful eye on the skies to avoid cosmic surprises that could harm our planet, and although so far there has not been an approach that endangers terrestrial life, interesting objects have been found along the way; three of them will approach us in the middle of Valentine’s Day.
Asteroids Will Approach Earth on Valentine’s Day
Right on Valentine’s Day, an asteroid the size of a building will approach the Earth at breakneck speed. It is not a planet-threatening object, but it has caught the attention of Near-Earth Object (NEO) scholars as it is one of the largest asteroids that will cross near us during February.
The asteroid, named 2023 CJ1 in NASA’s NEO catalog, measures between 21 and 46 meters and travels at a speed of 7.16 kilometers per second. It will have its closest approach one day before Valentine’s Day, February 13, at which time it will be placed just over 7 million kilometers from Earth.
It will not be the only one that will travel toward the Earth; on February 14, another asteroid will cross the skies. It is 2023 CP, discovered just a few days ago, on February 8. The asteroid is larger than its astronomical companion, although not by much. It is between 26 and 58 meters in diameter, and according to NASA’s calculations, it advances almost three and a half kilometers per second in its trajectory. The newly discovered 2023 CP will be closer than its congener, positioning itself 6.5 million kilometers away from us.
There is more yet, a third asteroid will position itself close to the planet and this time its size is impressive. The Near-Earth Object Study Center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has said that asteroid 199145 (2005 YY128) will make an approach on February 16, but the most impressive thing is the size of the astronomical object, as it is believed that it could measure up to 1.2 kilometers in diameter and therefore travels at a dizzying speed of 24 kilometers every second.
Calculations predict that the huge object will approach only 4.5 million kilometers from Earth, a smaller distance than previous ones, but even with this proximity, there is no need for alarm as there is no possibility of a collision.
Unlike comets, asteroids are made of space rock and are not capable of igniting comatose contrails, which is why detecting them in the sky is much more difficult and they cannot be observed unless with massive telescopes. This greatly limits astronomical observations of asteroids, but even though we cannot see them, it is interesting to think that such massive bodies are heading toward us, albeit without any threat so far.
What Are NEOs?
NASA classifies asteroids and comets as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) when they have been “pulled by the gravitational pull of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s vicinity” and come within 1.3 Astronomical Units (almost 200 billion kilometers) of Earth.
We might think that a distance of millions of kilometers cannot earn the title of ‘close to Earth;’ however, we have to keep in mind that talking about the immense scales of the Universe, 200 billion kilometers is already considered an object to keep an eye on in case something abnormal happens.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera