Car-sized asteroid set to pass Earth today; NASA reveals speed, size, and more

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When NASA’s telescopes such as the NEOWISE telescope, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Pans-STARRS1, and Catalina Sky Survey track a new Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), astronomers measure the asteroid’s observed positions in the sky and report them to the Minor Planet Center. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) then uses that data to determine the asteroid’s most likely orbit around the Sun, according to NASA. Using this method, the US space agency has shed light on an asteroid that is expected to pass Earth today, January 4.

Asteroid 2024 AD4: Close approach details

As per the details revealed by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), Asteroid 2024 AD4 is expected to pass Earth at a distance of just 243,000 kilometers. This is even closer than the Moon! Consequently, Asteroid 2024 AD4 has become the first asteroid to pass Earth at lesser distance than 1 LD (lunar distance) this year. It is already travelling towards Earth in its orbit at 35643 kilometers per hour which is faster than an Intercontinental Ballistic Missle (ICBM)!

This space rock belongs to the Apollo group of Near-Earth Asteroids, which are Earth-crossing space rocks with semi-major axes larger than Earth’s. These asteroids are named after the humongous 1862 Apollo asteroid, discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s.

Other details

According to NASA, Asteroid 2024 AD4 has not passed Earth before and this is its first close approach to Earth. After today, it will come close to Earth again on April 17, 2035, at a distance of 52 million kilometers.

NASA says that this asteroid does not threaten Earth due to its relatively small size. With a width of just 20 feet, Asteroid 2024 AD4 is only as big as a car. On the other hand, asteroids bigger than 492 feet and which pass Earth closer than 7.5 million kilometers are classified as ‘Potentially Hazardous Objects’.

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