A big asteroid scheduled to pass relatively close to Earth will mean close call

Luckily, no one on Earth is in danger of this close encounter.
Fabienne Lang
An asteroid is scheduled to swoosh past Earth on November 1st.
An asteroid is scheduled to swoosh past Earth on November 1.

Nazarii Neshcherenskyi/ iStock 

Grab your telescope and ready yourself for quite a show on Nov .01. An asteroid measuring between 1,000 and 2,430 feet (304 - 740 meters) in diameter is due to fly past Earth.

To put those numbers into perspective, the world's tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, stands at 2,716 feet (828 meters) tall, and the One World Trade Center measures 1,792 feet (546 meters) at its tip.

This asteroid was only recently discovered on September 12, 2022 by the Pan-STARRS2 telescope in Hawaii. Observations by the Pan-STARRS2 telescope as well as the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona in October were able to determine the asteroid's path.

Named 2022 RM4 by the Minor Planet Center, the asteroid is heading towards Earth but it doesn't threaten to crash into us or even create any direct issues. That said, travelling at speeds of about 52,000 miles per hour (83,671 kilometers per meter), it will come as close as just under six times the moon's distance from Earth on Nov 1, 2022, or a distance of 1,427,801 miles (2,297,822 kilometers), reported Newsweek.

Telescope owners can gear up as they may get a decent look at the fly-by.

As asteroids are relatively small in terms of the universe, they can fairly easily be disturbed, "so they can develop orbits that cross those planets," explained Jay Tate, the director of the Spaceguard Center observatory in the U.K., to Newsweek.

Therefore, even though the 2022 RM4 asteroid is relatively close to Earth on a solar system scale, the chances of it, or any other asteroid, hitting Earth are incredibly low. One of the reasons this asteroid is of particular interest is that it was so recently discovered, demonstrating that the survey of near-Earth asteroids is not yet complete.

If, for whatever reason, an asteroid like 2022 RM4 were to hit Earth (and those chances are one in 100,000 years, depending on the asteroid's size) its impact would vary based on its size, speed, and angle of impact.

So if 2022 RM4 and its 1,000 and 2,430 feet (304 - 740 meters) span were to collide with Earth, the damage would be substantial. "A 740-meter rocky asteroid like this will impact our surface bringing 30,000 megatons of TNT, producing a 10 kilometer [6.2 mile] impact crater on earth (600 meters deep) and a 7.6 Richter magnitude earthquake," Franck Marchis, a senior planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute, told Newsweek.

Moreover, according to Gretchen Benedix, an astrogeologist at Curtin University, who also spoke with Newsweek, "In all cases, a crater will form – but the composition of the asteroid will be the defining property for the size – from 3.8 to 15.5 kilometers [2.4 to 9.6 miles] diameter."

"Within 100 kilometers of the impact (into rock), there will be radiation effects from almost nil to radiation burns; a range of seismic effects; airblast effects ranging from glass windows shattering to buildings collapsing; clouds of gas and dust launched into the atmosphere."

Luckily, we won't have to face any of that.

How to see the asteroid

As the asteroid comes closer to Earth it brightens significantly. In early October, 2022 RM4 was at about magnitude 19.5. That's too faint to see with the naked eye or through an amateur telescope. By the time it swooshes past Earth on Nov. 01 it will reach approximately magnitude 14.3. It won't be a beaming ray of light but it will likely be noticeable through amateur telescopes, explained EarthSky.

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