These days, several media outlets announced a sensational yet likely dangerous asteroid will fly close to Earth on February 4. These reports are correct; however, we have absolutely nothing to worry about.
It is accurate that an asteroid 2002 AJ129 as big as a whole building will pass by Earth. Moreover, according to NASA, will overpass at around 10 times the distance from Earth to the Moon, roughly 2.6 million miles.
The asteroid is about 0.3 to 0.75 miles in diameter. Comparatively, the tallest building in the world is 0.51 miles tall.
Spokesmen from NASA stated there is no chance for 2002 AJ129 to crash with planet Earth.
“We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately.”
“Our calculations indicate that 2002 AJ129 has no chance — zero — of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or anytime over the next 100 years,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth-Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
However, this asteroid’s close encounter seems quite remarkable itself. What no one mentioned is that rocks about this size fly close to Earth all the time. Two of them even flew this week.
According to NASA’s Solar System Dynamics website, on January 18, a car-sized asteroid 2018 BD, discovered this year, came around 0.09 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon or 21,500 miles.
Furthermore, another 2018 BC, also with the car of a vehicle, flew close to Earth on January 19. Its distance was around 0.73 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon or 174,400 miles.
Although these space rocks are smaller than 2002 AJ129, they still came within the altitude extent where some GPS satellites orbit.
Therefore, the worst scenario could have resulted in a collision between one of the rocks and a satellite.
Then again, there were asteroids even bigger than 2002 AJ129 that have made close encounters with Earth too.
On September 1, 2017, the 2.7 mile-wide Asteroid Florence crossed about 4.4 million miles near Earth. Another bus-size asteroid, 2017 SX17 passed 54,100 miles to Earth on October 2, 2017.
Indeed, NASA labeled 2002 AJ129 as a potentially dangerous. However, it is equally important to remember that this label is given to an asteroid larger than 460 feet in diameter that gets closer than 4.65 million miles.