Huge asteroid to fly by Earth in its closest approach for 200 years

Nation/world

A giant asteroid that is more than a half-mile wide is set to safely speed by Earth next week.

The space rock known as 7482 (1994 PC1) will be making it closest approach to our planet for about 200 years when it flies by on Jan. 18 around 1:51 p.m. PT, according to an entry on NASA’s Solar System Dynamics website.

At a distance of around 1.2 million miles from Earth, the asteroid is still quite far — for reference, the moon is more than 200,000 miles away — and it’s not expected to pose a threat to the planet.

NASA does, however, classify 7482 as “potentially hazardous object” due to its size and proximity to Earth.

Discovered in 1994, the asteroid has a diameter of about 3,451 feet, making it more than twice as large as New York City’s Empire State Building.

The large object is traveling at speeds of approximately 43,754 mph.

While stargazers in North America won’t be able to see the space rock streaking across the sky with the naked eye, they can try to view 7482 with a small telescope, according to EarthSky.

The asteroid will also fly by Earth again this year in early July — but at an even more comfortable distance of 41.2 million miles from our planet. 

NASA is preparing for the possibility that a “Near-Earth object” such as an asteroid will pose a threat to the planet someday and recently launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission to test its planetary defense system.

The DART spacecraft will intentionally crash into an asteroid to see if it that changes its speed and trajectory. The ship will be specifically aiming for the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, which orbits the larger asteroid Didymos.

When the anticipated collision happens this coming fall, Dimorphos will be about 6.8 million miles from Earth. 

The mission blasted off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base last November.

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