A gigantic rock could be heading towards the earth over the weekend, according to NASA's asteroid trackers. The asteroid named 2017 AE5 is apparently screeching towards the planet's vicinity at a speed of 20,221 miles per hour and will have a close encounter with earth, early on Sunday, February 1 at around 3.18 am EST.
The asteroid measures around 301 feet to 699 feet in diameter and NASA has classified AE5 as a Near-Earth Object or NEO. NEOs are all comets and asteroids that orbit the Sun from a distance of about 1.3 astronomical units. However, the US space agency has not classified the asteroid as "potentially hazardous" as it may be smaller than what can be regarded as such.
Asteroid 2017 AE5: The rogue body
Reports suggest that NEOs can still potentially hit the earth but the impact will entirely depend on the size of the asteroid. If the asteroid is relatively small, then it would most likely burn up upon contact with the planet's atmosphere. Despite the possibility of a small asteroid burning up in the atmosphere, it can still have quite an impact if it does make it through and can cause a lot of damage. However, the damage will not be as catastrophic as the larger asteroids.
NASA has predicted that the asteroid may approach our planet from a distance of about 0.03490 astronomical units. In human calculation, it indicates that the space rock will be 3.2 million miles away from earth so it will not strike but instead pass by the planet.
NASA's planetary defense weapon holds the key
As space experts strongly predict the possibility of an asteroid impact in the future, NASA is busy developing a planetary defense weapon aimed at protecting the planet from a deep space impact.
The primary purpose of the weapon is to nudge an approaching asteroid from its original trajectory so that the space rocks will skim past earth safely. However, the weapon may not work well with giant asteroids, and some space experts believe that nuking space bodies is the only way to protect the earth if giant bodies approach the blue planet.