NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) reports that a massive asteroid will be coming threateningly close to Earth on Saturday, February 15.
The kilometer-wide asteroid, officially named 2002 PZ39, will reportedly be the closest it ever was to Earth at a distance of 3.6 million miles, 15 times the distance of the moon.
Photo by: NASA
Thankfully, astronomers say that it will merely zoom past and that we’re all safe from its potential destruction.
“There’s no hazard or danger,” Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Objects Studies, told Herald on Thursday. “We’ve been watching this asteroid for years, and we know its orbit very well.”
If the asteroid were to hit Earth, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said: “It plows into the Earth, it makes a huge crater, it throws enormous amounts of earth material into the atmosphere. It could set fire to a large fraction of a continent. Then you’d have a lot of dust in the atmosphere for years and years afterward. It would wipe out all life for a thousand miles around, and then knock-on consequences for the environment for decades.”
McDowell also said that the key to avoiding a deadly impact is to finding out years in advance so that astronauts have time to go to space and deal with the object. They will most likely attach rocket boosters to it to either slow it down or speed it up slightly so that it intersects with Earth’s orbit a couple of hours sooner or later than the Earth will be.
But we can rest assured that “there is no known asteroid that has any chance of hitting the Earth over the next hundred years,” according to Chodas.
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