Scientists: Mile-long asteroid could be dangerous to life on Earth in millions of years if it breaks up
The fire ball that passed over Japan in 2017 is linked to a mile-long asteroid. Scientists now believe that the asteroid, known as 2003 YT1 could break up and harm life on Earth.
Three asteroids, including one that's larger than the Washington Monument, are set to safely fly past Earth on Christmas Day, according to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
The largest space rock, known as asteroid 501647 (2014 SD224), is slated to come within 1.9 million miles of Earth and is thought to have a diameter as great as 689 feet. At its size and distance, it is considered a "potentially hazardous" Near-Earth Object (NEO), but it poses no threat to the planet when it zips past later this week.
"Potentially hazardous" NEOs are defined as space objects that come within 0.05 astronomical units and measure more than 460 feet in diameter, NASA explained. According to a 2018 report by Planetary.org, there are more than 18,000 NEOs.
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This asteroid last made a close approach to Earth on Jan. 26, 2020, and will not do so again until Dec. 18, 2021, NASA added.
In addition to asteroid 501647 (2014 SD224), two other asteroids will safely fly past Earth on Christmas Day — 2020 XY and 2020 YM1. Both are considered NEOs as well, and, like asteroid 501647, pose no threat to Earth.
In 2018, NASA unveiled a 20-page plan that outlined the steps the U.S. should take to be better prepared for NEOs, such as asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of the planet.
MILE-LONG ASTEROID COULD BE DANGEROUS TO LIFE ON EARTH IN MILLIONS OF YEARS IF IT BREAKS UP: SCIENTISTS
A recent survey showed that Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts over sending humans back to the moon or to Mars.
In April 2019, NASA awarded a $69 million contract to SpaceX, the space exploration company led by Elon Musk, to help it with asteroid deflection via its DART mission.
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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in April 2019 that an asteroid strike is not something to be taken lightly and is perhaps Earth's biggest threat.
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