Potentially Hazardous near-Earth asteroid to pass by at high speed today

Asteroid 2002 AJ129, sized half-a-kilometer, makes close approach Sunday

Asteroid 2002 AJ129 will make a close approach to Earth on Feb. 4, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. PST (4:30 p.m. EST). At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be at a distance of 2.6 million miles, or 4.2 million kilometers -- about 10 times the distance between Earth and the moon. NASA

Asteroid 2002 AJ129, an intermediate-sized near-Earth asteroid will pass by Earth on Sunday, February 4, 2018.

The asteroid will make its closest approach to the Earth at a distance which is greater than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. It is predicted to pass by at around 1:30 p.m. PST (4:30 p.m. EST/ 21:30 UTC).

The asteroid is believed to have a size between 0.3 miles or 0.5 kilometers and 0.75 miles or 1.2 kilometers.

However, Astronomers do not have any fears about the flyby. Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said, "We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately. Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance-zero-of colliding with Earth on Feb.4 or anytime over the next 100 years."

The asteroid will have a velocity of 76,000 mph (34 kilometers per second) at its closest distance. This is higher than the majority of the near-Earth object during their flyby across Earth. The flyby velocity is higher due to the asteroid's orbit which approaches the sun at a distance of 11 million miles or 18 million kilometers.

It was discovered by NASA-sponsored Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project at the Maui Space Surveillance Site on Haleakala, Hawaii on January 15, 2002.

Even though asteroid 2002 AJ129 is categorized as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), it will not form any collision with Earth any soon. JPL's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies makes observations on the asteroids, comets or any other bodies which pass by Earth for the NASA's Near-Earth Object Observation Program.

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office studies the near earth bodies to avoid any potential hazards or collisions with Earth. They also aim to work to tackle such situations warn people and lead any disaster management missions.

Space organizations are also keenly watching NEOs during their close encounters with Earth. One such observation has led to the identification of 'Oumuamua', the first interstellar object to pass through the Solar System near Earth.

This article was first published on February 4, 2018
Related topics : Nasa