Two skyscraper-sized asteroids headed in Earth's direction this week

NASA is keeping a close eye on the massive space rocks for future close approaches.
Chris Young
A stock image of an asteroid flying near Earth.
A stock image of an asteroid flying near Earth.

buradaki / iStock 

Three skyscraper-sized asteroids are flying close to Earth this week.

The closest of the three asteroids will miss Earth by roughly 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers), which is about ten times the distance between the Earth and the moon, according to NASA.

That's a relatively small distance when it comes to space, meaning the space agency is using the close flyby to collect data and help prepare for any future close approaches.

Three asteroids to fly near Earth this week

On Monday, February 27, an asteroid named 2012 DK31 flew by Earth at a distance of roughly 3 million miles (4.8 million km). The space rock measures roughly 450 feet (137 meters) across, making it about as wide as a 40-story skyscraper is tall. Its orbit around the sun means it will cross Earth's orbit every few years.

NASA classifies 2012 DK31 as a potentially hazardous asteroid, though it poses no immediate threat to Earth. Still, it's large enough that it could cause serious damage on Earth if crossed paths with Earth in a future orbit.

NASA generally classifies any asteroid greater than 450 feet wide and orbiting within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) as a potentially hazardous asteroid or PHA. It's worth noting that NASA has mapped 2012 DK31's trajectory for the next 200 years, and no collisions are predicted to occur.

Today, Tuesday, February 28, a skyscraper-sized PHA will come within 2.2 million miles (3.5 million km) of Earth. The asteroid 2006 BE55 orbits near Earth roughly once every four or five years. It also measures roughly 450 feet across.

Later this week, on Friday, March 3, an asteroid measuring roughly 250 feet (76 m) across will fly past Earth at a distance of 3.3 million miles (5.3 million km). The space rock, 2021 QW, isn't categorized as a PHA due to its size, though it makes a close approach to Earth every few years.

NASA and ESA boost Earth's planetary defense

Thankfully, NASA's calculations show that no known asteroid is on a direct collision path with Earth at any point in the coming years, though it is prepared in the unlikely possibility that one does come our way.

Last year, the space agency tested a planetary defense technology by purposefully crashing its DART spacecraft into an asteroid. The European Space Agency (ESA), meanwhile, is planning to launch a space observatory called NEOMIR that will detect near-Earth asteroids hidden by the Sun's glare.

Source: LiveScience

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