A massive asteroid will fly by Earth at a distance of 1.43 million miles

It was only discovered last month.
Ameya Paleja
Asteroid on a collision course with Earth
Asteroid on a collision course with Earth


If you were staring at the night skies last night, hoping to catch a glimpse of a witch or two, then look up to the skies again with the guarantee of spotting a massive asteroid tonight. At its broadest, Asteroid RM2022 is just shy of the height of the tallest building on Earth, Burj-al Khalifa, and will zoom past Earth at a distance of 1.43 million miles (2.3 million km), CNET reported.

Asteroids flying millions of miles away from the Earth might seem harmless, and they usually are. However, these seemingly large distances are minor shifts in the path of an asteroid and planets in the solar system. Last month, Interesting Engineering reported how Mars recently witnessed a meteoroid strike that created a crater 500 feet wide.

Imagine the devastation caused by an asteroid 2,428 feet (740 m) wide! This is why NASA has initiated the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), which uses four telescopes to scan the sky every 24 hours and keeps an eye on over 28,000 asteroids in space and their trajectories.

What do we know about 2022 RM4?

The asteroid was first spotted only in September this year by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) observatory in Hawaii. From what astronomers have detailed so far, we know that the diameter of the celestial rock is somewhere between 1,083 and 2,428 feet (330 -740 m).

It travels at 52,500 miles (84,500 km) an hour, and as it zooms past Earth, it will roughly be at a distance six times that between our planet and the Moon. Amateur astronomer, Tony Dunn, has also created a graphic to denote the path of the asteroid, which he shared on Twitter.

According to NASA's JPL Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid has been listed with a Rarity factor of 2. Rarity is a measure of the frequency of spotting another asteroid of a similar size during an Earth close approach in the sky. A rarity of two means that one can see similar-sized asteroids roughly once a year, CNET said in its report.

Can I see the asteroid in the sky?

As Dunn points out in his tweet, the asteroid is large and close enough to be spotted in the sky if you have a decent telescope in your backyard. Interestingly, four other asteroids will fly past Earth today, so you are lucky you might even end up spotting more than one.

According to NASA's JPL website, though, the other asteroids are much smaller, and the next two are about the size of an airplane. For those keen to spot asteroids but without access to advanced telescopes, The Virtual Telescope Project conducts live streams of asteroid flybys from time to time.

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