On Wednesday 19th April, a massive asteroid, officially known as 2014 JO25, and measuring about the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, will whiz past the Earth at a safe distance of 1.1 million miles, roughly 5 times the distance to our moon.
Fortunately, NASA scientists have confirmed that there’s absolutely no chance this asteroid could hit Earth although they did note that it is “a very close approach for an asteroid this size.”
Very little is known about this huge rock, apart from the fact that its surface is twice as reflective as that of the moon. The immediate brush with Earth means that avid star gazers will be able to glimpse the enormous rock even from small telescopes. It will be discernible for 2 nights and enthusiasts may watch it live through NASA telescopes in California and Puerto Rico, which will display an extremely detailed picture of the mass.
Much smaller asteroids come into closer proximity with the Earth on a frequent basis, but such a close encounter with one of this magnitude only happens roughly every ten years. The last time we had such an occurrence was 2004 while the next one is due to happen in 2027. This particular asteroid won’t approach us this close again for another 500 years.
Although the odds of a large rock like this one hitting us are rather slim, “because the consequences could potentially be severe, it’s not something we should completely ignore,” commented Dr. Amy Mainzer, an astronomer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
This close shave serves as a wake-up call that there is a chance that an asteroid may eventually collide with Earth sooner or later. NASA is in fact, currently conducting research on an asteroid with more likely chances of hitting our planet some 170 years in the future.
However, we shouldn’t be too worried as it seems the good people at NASA have got us covered; as long as an asteroid spring a surprise visit on us, a collision should be avoidable by implementing fancy space tools like ‘kinetic impactors’ or using large objects as ‘gravity tractors’ to block its path.