Days after three asteroids zoomed past Earth, a massive celestial object is headed for a close approach on January 18. Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1) will swoop past Earth in the coming weeks as it moves around in its elliptical orbit through the solar system.
Asteroids are rocky fragments left over from the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.
At its closest, the asteroid will be 1.93 million km from Earth, 5.15 times the distance between the Moon and Earth. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which tracks the movement of these asteroids have said that the object will be flying at 70,416 kilometers per hour.
The asteroid, which is about 1 kilometre in diameter and 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building in the US, has been dubbed potentially hazardous due to its staggering size. While astronomers do not see the asteroid impacting Earth, experts have said that an asteroid of this size has the potential of hitting the planet every 6,00,000 years.
According to JPL, Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them to within195 million kilometres of the Sun, which means they can circulate through the Earth’s orbital neighbourhood. While the majority of the asteroid are classified NEOs, only a few are designated potentially hazardous. These objects are defined as asteroids that are more than about 460 feet (140 meters) in size with orbits that bring them as close as within 7.5 million kilometres of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1) was first discovered by Robert McNaught on August 9, 1994, using the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia and data showed that it had been captured in the scans since 1974. With over 47 years of observations, astronomers have well predicted its orbit over the years.
According to JPL, the closest approach set for January 18 with Earth will not happen for another 200 years. According to EarthSky, Asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 will shine at around magnitude 10. An object at 10th magnitude is a decent target for observers using a 6-inch or larger backyard telescope from a dark sky site.
Three asteroids zoomed past Earth in the first week of 2022. Among the three visiting Earth’s orbit in the first week of the month, 22021 YQ was the biggest with a size extending between 49-110 meters wide.