A likely, these objects will burn up

A giganticasteroid is heading towards Earth and will pass by in a relatively neardistance from the surface. In such a scenario, is it really safe out there? Therehas been some news regarding a massive “potentially hazardous” asteroidspanning more than the length of the world’s tallest building- Burj Khalifa. It.The roughly 0.7-mile long asteroid with a speed of 67,000 miles per houris supposed to fly by our planet on Feb. 4.

Before delving into thetechnicalities of astrophysics, let us take a quick look at what NASA has tosay in response to the news relating to asteroids threatening the Earth. Infact, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program says “there have been noasteroids or comets observed that would impact Earth anytime in the foreseeablefuture.  All known Potentially HazardousAsteroids have less than a 0.01% chance of impacting Earth in the next 100years”. NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing 30million miles of Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. TheNear-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,”discovers these objects, characterizes the physical nature of a subset of them,and predicts their paths to determine if any could be potentially hazardous toour planet. There are no known credible impact threats to date- only thecontinuous and harmless infall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up inthe atmosphere.

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However, incertain cases with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) larger than 140 metres, theprobability of a palpable danger increases. Crashing on the land, they may formlarge craters and generate a tsunami wave if they hit the ocean. Comparatively,smaller NEOs are not hazardous if they hit the ocean. However, if they hit theland, the risks associated with it can be critical.

Most likely, these objectswill burn up on entering the Earth’s atmosphere due to friction, but theshockwaves generated due to this explosion can be dangerous. The Chelyabinskmeteor that fell in Russia in 2013 was only 20 meters in diameter and causeddamage to over 7,200 buildings and injured 1,491 people. International AsteroidDay is observed every year on 30 June to raise awarenessabout asteroids and what can be done to protect the Earth, its families,communities, and future generations from a catastrophic event. Asteroid Day isheld on the anniversary of the Siberian Tunguska event that took place on June30th, 1908, the most harmful known asteroid-related event on Earth in recenthistory.In spite of thelooming danger, the odds appear to be in our favour. The next encounter with alarge NEO, Apophis is expected to be in 2029 and then again in 2036.

NASA andthe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have run three simulatedscenarios to assess the prevention methods in case of an asteroid intervention.Scientists have been developing technology that would allow them to deflectasteroids from a distance. They have been working on the Double AsteroidReflection Test (DART) to develop a technique known as kinetic impactor whichwould allow them to strike an asteroid approaching Earth by shifting its orbit.The first test with DART is planned for October of 2022 and then again in 2024.



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