Two massive asteroids, the size of a 40-story building are approaching our planet this weekend. Both asteroids are expected to fly past Earth safely.
The first of two skyscraper-sized asteroids will make its closest approach to Earth on Friday (July 29), while the second will pass by on Saturday (July 30).
According to NASA, steroid 2016 CZ31 will fly by around 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT) on Friday at a speed of 55,618 kilometers per hour.
It is estimated that the asteroid measures around 122 meters at its widest point, which is the same size as a 40-story building.
As the asteroid approaches our planet, it will pass within about 2,800,000 kilometers – more than seven times Earth’s average distance from the Moon. In January 2028, this space rock will make another close approach to Earth, according to NASA.
A second asteroid will also pass by our orbit on Saturday, although it will be farther away than the previous one.
This asteroid, 2013 CU83, has a diameter of about 183 meters and will pass Earth at a distance of about 6,960,000 kilometers, about 18 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.
Initially, this colossal rock will be traveling at 21,168 km/h when it approaches our planet at 19:37 ET (23:37 GMT). Neither of these close encounters is as close as asteroid 2022 NF, which passed just 90,000 km away from Earth on July 7.
It’s always important to remember that they also push smaller space rocks into our atmosphere, where they burn up or explode like fireballs. There have been several times this year when this has happened after the close passage of an asteroid, including when 2022 NF passed close by.
There is also a very small chance that if an asteroid approaches Earth from a few million kilometers away, its orbit may change slightly after interacting with a larger object’s gravity; even a small change might result in an asteroid colliding with Earth in the future.
This is why NASA and other space agencies closely monitor thousands of near-Earth objects.
NEOs are comets and asteroids that have entered the Earth’s neighborhood as a result of gravitational attraction from nearby planets. Most comets are composed of water ice with dust particles embedded within them, whereas rocky asteroids originated between Mars and Jupiter in the warmer inner solar system. Scientists are interested in comets and asteroids because they are relatively unchanged remnants from the solar system’s formation.
Our solar system’s giant outer planets formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets. The leftover debris and pieces from this ancient formation process are the comets we see today.
In a similar way, asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the agglomeration of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
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