‘Potentially hazardous’ asteroid speeding at 94K kmph to fly past Earth today

An asteroid at a massive speed of 94,208 kilometres per hour will fly past Earth at a distance of just 3.4 million kilometres or 2.1 million miles.

The asteroid 2016 AJ193, which is larger than 99 per cent of all known Near-Earth Objects, will be the closest object to pass by Earth in more than six decades. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has listed the asteroid as ‘potentially hazardous’ based on parameters such as size and distance. However, the space rock’s orbit is well known and there is no risk of impact.

Astronomers will be able to see the 1.4-kilometre-wide asteroid, estimated to be bigger than Empire State Building (1,250 feet tall), move past our planet in its orbit via a telescope.

“Closest approach to Earth will occur on August 21, 2021, at 11:10 am ET (8:40 pm IST). This means amateur astronomers with 8-inch telescopes (or larger) have an opportunity to see this asteroid glide by early on August 21, just hours before sunrise,” according to Earth Sky.

According to NASA, the asteroid will come close to Earth next time on February 22, 2063. Scientists will observe the asteroid, which was spotted in January 2016, until August 24 using a radar. They will be able to study the object’s shape, size and spin. The radar signals sent to asteroid 2016 AJ193 will be transmitted from California’s Goldstone Antenna, along with small radars in Australia, Spain and Italy, according to Earth Sky.

In addition, amateur astronomers equipped with telescopes will be able to see this fast-moving object.

The asteroid 2016 AJ193 was first spotted by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) facility – located at Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii. NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft was then used to observe the asteroid. Astronomers noticed that the asteroid is very dark (not very reflective). However, its rotation period, pole direction, and spectral class are all unknown. Thus, astronomers intend to watch 2016 AJ193 when it passes this time.

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