Sky gazers have surprising treats this week, including one today!
Two bus-sized asteroids will zip past the planet at speeds of 25,000 miles (40,000 km) an hour on consecutive days, Forbes has reported. In case you have cloudy skies or are too lazy to get out, you can even watch the live stream here.
Last month, we told you about the rare celestial treat where five planets of the solar system appeared to have lined up in a straight line. While this was a predictable show of celestial bodies, others, like asteroids, like to make unexpected appearances.
Last year, a meteor lit up the night sky over Norway, and the shockwave that accompanied it broke windows and even doors of houses. There are some that enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn out without a whimper, while others travel from a safe distance, probably setting a date with Earth in the future.
However, the two bus-sized asteroids are coming eerily close to the Earth. What's worse is that we hardly know anything about them since they were first spotted only this week.
Asteroid 2022 NE
On December 6, 2008, the first of the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PAN-STARRS) telescope went online at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii to survey the sky for moving or variable objects.
Among its hundreds of discoveries are also asteroids 2022 NE and 2022 NF that were spotted earlier this week, which will fly by Earth on July 6 and July 7, respectively.
2022 NE is estimated to be barely 20 feet (6 m) in diameter and fly past the Earth at around 2100 UTC (1700 ET), just a few hours from now. It will fly within a distance of 84,000 miles (135,000 km) of the planet we call home. While this might sound like a safe distance, it is actually a third of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
NASA isn't classifying this as a dangerous event, but astronomers are calling it a "very near encounter," Forbes said in its report.
Asteroid 2022 NF
The following day, asteroid 2022 NF will come much closer to Earth while it zips away at speeds of 25,000 miles (40,000 km) an hour. At 23 feet (7 m), the asteroid is only marginally bigger than 2022 NE.
The flyby that will occur at around 1400 UTC (1000 ET) will see the asteroid at just over 55,000 miles (89,000 km) from Earth, or about a fourth of the distance of the Moon. In astronomical terms, these distances are similar to a hair's width. Luckily, due to their small size, even if these objects were to crash into the Earth, their impact would just be local, Newsweek reported.
According to the NASA website, asteroid 2020 QG holds the record for the closest flyby ever recorded. Estimated to be no larger than 20 feet (6 m) in size, it crossed over the Indian Ocean in August 2018 at a distance of 1,830 miles (2,950 km).
If you are interested in seeing more asteroids fly by, check out the Next Five Approaches page hosted by NASA.