On July 7, a small asteroid the size of a bus will make an extremely close approach to Earth, passing within just 56,000 miles, in other words, about 23% of the average distance between Earth and the Moon. Just a few days ago, no one knew it was approaching.
The asteroid 2022 NF is likely to fly by our planet, says NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Astronomers discovered the sneaky asteroid using data from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), a system of cameras and telescopes based in Hawaii with the primary goal of detecting near-Earth objects, or NEOS. On July 4, scientists recognized the thing. First, they analyzed its approximate size and trajectory, observing that the space rock measured 18 and 41 feet wide at its longest dimension.
Owing to its petite size, 2022 NF does not meet NASA’s criteria for a “potentially hazardous asteroid,” which must measure at least 460 feet (140 meters) long and pass within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth as per Live Science’s sister site Space.com.
Although the asteroid makes its closes approach on July 7, the celestial body will be visible to some telescopes on Wednesday, July 6. The Virtual Telescope Project will Livestream the object’s passage from their telescope in Rome, beginning at 4 PM.
Space agencies across the globe monitor various NEOs like this one. In sporadic cases, they pose a threat to Earth, but some large asteroids can prove to be a disaster if their trajectories should happen to change.