A massive asteroid, discovered last month, is traveling toward Earth at 20 miles a second

It was only spotted last month.
Ameya Paleja
An illustration of an asteroid
An illustration of an asteroidKerrick/iStock
  • The asteroid was spotted on July 26 for the first time
  • It is about 700 feet in size
  • Four more asteroids are flying past Earth today and tomorrow

A stadium-sized asteroid will zoom past the Earth in the very early hours of Thursday, Live Science reported. Chances are that by the time you read this, the asteroid is merrily on its way towards the Sun, traveling at about 20 miles (32 km) a second.

Asteroids crossing orbits with the Earth is not a new thing. It is, however, a bit scary when you know that its approach is relatively close to the planet and gets worse when astronomers only manage to spot it a few days before its flies by.

Asteroid 2022 OE2

The asteroid 2022 OE2 falls in this category of asteroids which astronomers had no idea was approaching the Earth. According to Next Five Asteroid approaches webpage maintained by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid is about 700 feet (213 m) in size, approximately the size of a stadium.

It will fly past the Earth at a distance of 3.2 million miles (5.2 million km) which is a fair distance if you consider that the Moon is just 239,000 miles (385,000 km) away. However, all objects that are within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) from the Earth are listed on the page, while an object bigger than 492 feet (150 m) is classified as potentially hazardous.

Therefore, asteroid 2022 OE2 carries a significant risk since a collision with another asteroid, or the effect of the gravitational pull of a larger celestial object can significantly alter its trajectory and send it towards the Earth instead of merely flying by.

Thwarting asteroids away from Earth

Interestingly, all the following five asteroid approaches on the webpage happen to be asteroids that have been discovered this year. Three of them, including 2022 OE2, are happening today, August 4, while two are happening tomorrow, August 5.

The closest approach will be made by Asteroid 2022 OB5 as it flies away at a distance of 631,000 miles (a million km). At 18 feet ( 5 m), the asteroid is no larger than a car, though, and would probably burn up in the atmosphere if it were to ever come toward Earth.

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Last month, two bus-sized asteroids came mighty close to the Earth, even closer than the Moon. Not only were they traveling at 25,000 miles (40,000 km) an hour, they were both spotted only a week prior, leaving very little time to respond.

The next asteroid may not be this small and could be even catastrophic if it hits our planet. In a bid to learn how to deflect such asteroids, NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission last year.

In September this year, the mission will crash into a 525 feet (160 m) wide Moon of an asteroid and change its trajectory ever so slightly to determine if it can be done in the future. While NASA claims that it does foresee a cataclysmic asteroid impact in the next 100 years, we only hope that scientists have sufficient time to analyze data from the DART mission before we see another surprise asteroid headed our way.

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