Asteroid travelling at more than 48,000 kilometres per hour set to whizz past Earth
A space rock is currently travelling at astronomical speeds through the solar system, and is set to come close to…
By admin, in Science , at January 12, 2021Tags: Space
A space rock is currently travelling at astronomical speeds through the solar system, and is set to come close to Earth in the coming days. The asteroid known as 2021 AL1 is approaching the orbit of Earth, and will swing by our planet on January 16.
The asteroid has journeyed past Mars on its way to Earth’s orbit and will swing inside to Venus before heading back out.
It is travelling at a speed of 13.5 kilometres per second, or a staggering 48,600 kilometres per hour.
Asteroid 2020 AL1 is 30 metres in size, making it bigger than a double-decker bus.
Thankfully, the distance between Earth and the asteroid will remain large.
NASA revealed that 2020 AL1 will get no closer than 9.4 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
The distance between the Earth and the Moon is called a Lunar Distance (LD) and measures 238,900 miles.
So 2020 AL1, being 9.4 LDs away is 2,245,660 from Earth.
Nonetheless, that is still close enough to be considered a Near Earth Object (NEO) by NASA.
NEOs are remnants of the solar system and as such NASA can use them to study the history of our host star and its orbiting planets.
NASA said on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.”
Even if the asteroid was on a collision course with our planet, it would pose no risk.
At 11 metres wide, the space rock would simply burn up in the atmosphere, similar to the Chelyabinsk incident.
In 2013, a 20-metre space rock hurtled towards Earth, making its way through the atmosphere before exploding above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The asteroid explosion was so powerful that it caused damage to more than 7,000 buildings and injured more than 1,400 people.