An asteroid measuring up to 1,410 feet is rapidly approaching Earth. Known as asteroid 523934 (1998 FF14), the space rock is likely to zoom past Earth on September 24 around 12.57 pm IST. The rock has been on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) radar ever since it was first detected in 1998. Recently, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) scientists attended a joint meeting in Geneva where one agenda was to discuss the implications of asteroid-deflection techniques. The asteroid is believed to be nearly as large as the Empire State Building in New York. Notably, asteroids are small, rocky objects in the solar system that orbit the Sun similar to other planets. However, they are much smaller than planets but are dangerous because of their characteristics to bring tsunamis and shock waves on Earth. The celestial bodies are directly affected by the Earth’s gravitational forces and therefore attract towards Earth.
When detected, NASA scientists had flagged asteroid 523934 as potentially dangerous and classified as Apollo asteroids. Apollo asteroids are Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) having distanced less than 1.017 astronomical units (AU), a unit of length which is roughly the distance between the Sun and Earth, the third planet from the Sun in the solar system. Earth is approximately 93 million miles or 150 million kms away from the Sun. Apollo asteroids make the largest group of near-Earth objects. As of December 2018, according to data available, the number of known Apollo asteroids is 10,485. The Earth-crossing asteroids have an orbital semi-major axis greater than that of the Earth but the perihelion distance is less than the Earth’s aphelion distance.
Along the 1998 FF14 path around the Sun, the closest approach will be 0.02780 astronomical units (AU) at about 80,136 km per hour. As predicted by the scientists, the asteroid is expected to return in the vicinity of Earth again several times in the century. The asteroid will enter the Earth’s proximity in 2026, 2033, 2040, 2043 and 2196. Importantly, NASA has said that the asteroid is unlikely to hit Earth on any of those occasions.