Earlier yesterday, NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) reported two asteroids flying by Earth in relatively close proximity, but thankfully, no disruption of life was really observed. Now, more observations made by NASA’s CNEOS states that over tomorrow, March 21 and Sunday, March 22, a total of four asteroids will approach Earth, and are projected to fly by at close proximity. While the farthest of the four will be 3.05 million kilometres away from Earth, the closest will approach Earth at a distance of 7,13,000 kilometres, which in space terms is not really too far away.
The four asteroids in question have been named by CNEOS as 2020 FK, 2020 FS, 2020 DP4 and 2020 FF1. The 2020 FK asteroid is the smallest of the four, measuring just 43 feet in diameter. It is presently hurtling through space at a speed of over 37,000kmph, and will approach Earth from a distance of 1.36 million kilometres. The second of the asteroids, 2020 FS, is also fairly small, measuring 56 feet in diameter. It is travelling at over 15,000kmph, and will make the farthest approach to Earth among the band of asteroids, at 3.05 million kilometres away. These two asteroids will approach Earth on Saturday, March 21 — the 2020 FK will fly by our planet at 9:35AM IST, while the 2020 FS will flash past at 8:59PM IST.
On Sunday, the 2020 DP4 will make its approach towards us. It is the largest of the bunch, and at 180 feet in diameter, is large enough to hold nearly 12 limousines back to back. However, there shouldn’t be any tremendous cause of concern, since it will fly by our planet at 1.35 million kilometres’ length, despite travelling at close to 29,000kmph. The 2020 FF1, on the other hand, is the second smallest of the bunch, at 48 feet. Incidentally, it is travelling the fastest, at close to 47,000kmph, and is also going to be the closest to Earth, at about 7,13,000 kilometres. In Indian time, both these asteroids will fly past on early Monday, March 23 — the 2020 DP4 will fly past us at 12:04AM on March 23, will the 2020 FF1 will whoosh past at 3:39AM.
Asteroid fly-bys are nothing new — in fact, they are pretty regular occurrences. However, the threat of an asteroid colliding with Earth cannot be entirely ruled out, which is what NASA’s CNEOS is out in space to warn us against. It is a constant monitor that observes any near-Earth objects, and calculates their speeds, mass and trajectories to determine threat levels and warn us accordingly. While smaller asteroids are known to not be much of a threat since they would most likely disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere, the larger space rocks are the ones that we continue to observe intently.