A giant asteroid will zip past Earth on May 27 at 47,200 mph

The biggest flyby this year.
Ameya Paleja
Illustration of an asteroid in spacedzika_mrowka/iStock

A giant asteroid, approximately four times larger than the Empire State Building, will zip past the Earth at a min-boggling speed of 47,200 mph (~76,000 kph) as we look forward to the weekend on Friday, May 27, Live Science reported

In a way, the asteroid will mark the first month anniversary of another big asteroid that zipped past our planet at 23,000 miles (~37,000 kph) an hour on April 28th, last month. For their giant sizes, these asteroids are still small pebbles as compared to the one that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. But so is the human species, and an asteroid strike could be quite dangerous for us as well.  

Tracking "Near-Earth Objects"

This is why NASA tracks more than 29,000 Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) every year. A NEO is any object that comes within a distance of 30 million miles (48 million km) of the Earth's orbit. By NASA's estimates, most of the NEOs are rather small. However, 7335 (1989 JA), the one hurtling in space at 47,200 miles an hour, is larger than 99 percent of the NEOs the space agency tracks. 

A stony asteroid, 7335 was first spotted in 1989 at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego, California. The asteroid belongs to the Apollo class, which means it orbits around the Sun and completes an orbit every 861 days or two years and four months.

Since the Earth has its own orbit to follow, the asteroid and our home planet luckily do not cross paths that often. On May 27, the two celestial bodies will be 2.5 million miles (4 million km) away from each other. The next time they cross paths, we will all be 33 years older from now. The date for that fly-by is June 23, 2055, but the asteroid will be about 17 million miles (27 million km) away from the Earth. 

Nevertheless, NASA classifies 7335 as a potentially hazardous asteroid, meaning if the giant rock were ever to change its trajectory and hit Earth, it could do enormous damage. 

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Redirecting asteroids

The human race is well aware of the dangers of such a deviation, and is currently looking for ways to redirect asteroids if we ever find them heading towards us. Last year, we reported that NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission to determine if we steer asteroids clear from our orbits. Last month, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) also unveiled its plans for such a planetary defense. 

It is worth mentioning that neither of these missions aims to blast an asteroid with a nuclear bomb, as Hollywood movies would have us believe. Instead, the missions want to know what it would take to nudge the asteroids just enough to keep them away from the Earth's orbit. Seven minutes could be the difference between a catastrophe and a near miss.  

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