Asteroid watch: NASA on alert as ‘potentially hazardous’ space rock soars by Earth | Science | News


The space rock 2019 OU1 will shoot past our planet at a staggering 29,000mph, and NASA is keeping a close eye on it. The asteroid, which is 100 metres long, will travel by at a distance of only 0.00687 astronomical units (AU). One AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, so coming within just 0.00687 AU is perilously close.

For reference, Mars – which the likes of NASA and SpaceX believe is a feasible target for humans to reach – is around 0.5 AU.

The asteroid is classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid, which according to NASA has the “potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.”

But NASA states anything less than 0.05 AU, roughly 4,647,790 miles, is considered a close approach.

According to NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid will approach Earth on August 28 at 11.36am, and will be just 640,000 miles or 0.00688 AU from the planet’s centre.

CNEOS has classified 2019 OU1 as an Apollo asteroid and like others from this group, fly around the Sun and Earth, occasionally intersecting with the orbit of the planet.

But with 2019 travelling 639,000 kilometres from Earth, the space agency believes the chance of it hitting Earth is basically nil.

However, asteroids can strike at any moment and there is always a very slim chance a massive civilisation-ending space rock could hit sooner.

For that reason, many claim global authorities should have a plan in place – but it seems they do not.

READ MORE: Asteroid warning: How Brexit will spark NEW ERA of planetary defence

NASA employee Robert Frost, who works as an instructor and flight controller for the space agency according to his bio on Q+A website Quora, said the best thing governments could do is tell the public to “hunker down”, as there would be little which can be done to prepare for the inevitable.

Mr Frost was writing in response to the question: “If it were discovered that an asteroid was going to wipe humanity out, say in 2 months, how would the governments of the world respond?”

He said: “That’s a tough one. Movies tell us they would keep it secret. There’s a lot of sense to that. Mass panic can be more dangerous than the actual event.

“But my experience working in government is that the government really isn’t good at keeping anything secret unless it begins within a secretive part of the culture, like the military.

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“Something like this would likely be first discovered by someone that couldn’t spell ‘security clearance’. It would be evident to astronomers all over the world.

“Feeling helpless, the government would likely just tell us to ‘hunker down’ and duct tape our window seams.

“Then the Democrats would blame it on the Republicans for ignoring global warming and the Republicans would blame it on the Democrats for not praying in school.”



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