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Stadium-sized asteroid will pass by Earth on Saturday

Asteroid will not hit Earth

Artist's concept of a near-Earth object. from NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Artist's concept of a near-Earth object. from NASA/JPL-Caltech. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An asteroid the size of a sports stadium is going to pass by Earth on Saturday, according to NASA.

The behemoth space rock is approximately 1,100 feet in diameter and will be around 3,160,000 miles from Earth at its closest approach.

For reference, NASA reports that the average distance between the moon and the Earth is roughly 239,000 miles.

While that might not seem significant, check out the screenshot below of an orbital diagram from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the asteroid’s projected path.

Asteroid path projection
Asteroid path projection (NASA)

The asteroid, labeled 163348 (2002 NN4), was first observed in July 2002, according to NASA’s JPL.

This isn’t the only asteroid projected to pass by Earth this week. A NASA Asteroid Watch page projects a 100-foot asteroid to pass by Thursday, a 52-foot asteroid to pass by Friday and three, including the stadium-sized rock, will pass by Saturday.

KSAT reached out to NASA and received the following statement from the director of JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies Paul Chodas"

Like 1998 OR2 5 weeks ago, this is another example of a well-observed asteroid passing by our planet at a considerable distance. In this case, the asteroid is passing by at a distance of over 13 times farther away than the Moon, which is about 5 million kilometers or 3 million miles. The uncertainty in our calculations of the close approach distance is about 200 km, even though we haven’t observed this asteroid in almost 4 years. To put that into perspective, we know the close approach distance to an accuracy of 1 part in about 27,000. Once we start observing the asteroid again over the next few days, that uncertainty will get even smaller (but of course, the close approach distance will remain 13.25 LD).

NASA JPL spokesperson Ian O’Neill told KSAT that he expects “astronomers will use this opportunity to gather extra science observations of this object when it makes a close approach.”


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