Everyone’s talking about the skyscraper-sized asteroid crossing Earth today
NASA is always on the lookout for potential threats from space. This includes bursts of radiation from the Sun, man-made objects that return to our atmosphere and, of course, objects like asteroids and comets. Today, one of these will fly relatively close to Earth, and NASA has considered it a potential threat due to its expected proximity on its closest approach. The object is an asteroid called 2021 KT1, and it is believed to be around 600 feet in diameter. If placed on the surface of the Earth, it would be as high as a skyscraper, and if it hit the Earth, it would cause massive damage. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen.
Scientists have, over time, grouped objects in space into two groups. If an asteroid or comet is more than 4.6 million miles from Earth, it is considered “safe,” at least as far as we can predict its future. Objects that fall within 4.6 million miles are considered “potentially dangerous” due to the fact that they could interact with the Earth or the Moon at some point in the near future. 2021 KT1 is one of those potentially dangerous items, but only by a small margin. During its passage through Earth today, it should reach a distance of 4.5 million miles.
In addition to 2021 KT1, two other asteroids will also pass much closer to Earth today. 2021 KT2 is just 23 feet in diameter but will drop within 200,000 miles of Earth, while 2018 LB, an estimated 70-foot-wide space rock, will drop just under 700,000 miles from our planet. None of these objects have a mathematical chance of touching Earth, based on data regarding their position, speed, and trajectory.
If an asteroid similar to 2021 KT1 were to hit Earth, it would be devastating, but not a world-ending event. At 600 feet wide, the boulder could completely destroy a large city if it struck at full throttle, with much of the damage being caused by the shock wave it would generate on impact. Since Earth is mostly water, there’s a good chance it will strike in the ocean, but that doesn’t mean no harm would be done. An asteroid of this size hitting the water has the potential to trigger huge tidal waves that could wipe out coastal communities. In addition, the enormous amount of water that would be vaporized in the event could drastically influence the weather in some regions or even the entire planet, if only for a short time.
The good news, of course, is that none of these rocks are going to hit us, and they all pass at relatively comfortable distances. Scientists are constantly scanning the skies for potential threats, and the hope is that any real threat to our existence will be detected well in advance that we can do something about it.
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To see the original version of this article on BGR.com