A blue whale-sized asteroid will zip past Earth at 27 times the speed of sound

It is 'potentially hazardous.'
Ameya Paleja
IE_ asteroid
An asteroid passing by earth

guvendemir/iStock  

  • NASA tracks over 28,000 asteroids in their orbits
  • Asteroid 2015FF is estimated to be 92 feet wide
  • At its closest, the asteroid will be at a distance of 2.67 million miles

A blue whale-sized asteroid will fly past Earth this Friday at 27 times the speed of sound, Live Science reported.

If you have been spooked by the threat of asteroids heading toward our planet after watching the movie "Don't Look Up," then you are not alone.

For years, astronomers have been concerned about what might happen if such an event occurred, and they have been preparing to avoid such a fate by mapping asteroid tracks for the next 100 years.

So far, NASA has a database of over 28,000 asteroids that it tracks down diligently, looking for little changes in their trajectories that could send them crashing towards our planet.

Helping NASA's cause are telescopes such as the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), which scans the night skies at least once every 24 hours and can provide updates on asteroids as they approach the Earth's orbit.

Asteroid 2015 FF

One such asteroid making a swift flyby is the 2015 FF. With an estimated diameter of between 42 and 92 feet (13 and 28 meters). This asteroid is about the size of an adult blue whale at its maximum.

The asteroid is moving at the speed of 20,512 miles an hour, which is about 27 times the speed of sound.

At its closest, the asteroid will be at a distance of 2.67 million miles (4.3 million km), which is about eight times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

According to NASA's criteria, any object that comes within 120 million miles of the Earth is classified as a "near-Earth Object." While those within 4.65 million miles are classified as a "potentially hazardous asteroid," of which 2015FF is one.

Preparing for the worst

While astronomers keep an eye out for NEOs and PHAs, asteroids can sneak up on us at times.

When these asteroids are small, they burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Larger asteroids, on the other hand, can be catastrophic.

To prepare for such an event, NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission last year, where a small spacecraft will crash into the Moon of an asteroid later this year.

Unlike scientific experiments in Hollywood films, this impact will not reduce the asteroid or its Moon to rubble.

Instead, it will shift it just a little to help scientists determine the scale of impact needed to move an asteroid away from its Earth-bound trajectory.

In addition, space agencies of other countries are also putting in efforts to improve the detection of PHAs in the future with the help of advanced radar systems.

The Chinese Space Agency also plans to slam rockets into asteroid Bennu which will divert the asteroid away from the Earth, Live Science said in its report.

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