Today marks the official first day of Autumn. In celebration of that, it seems our galaxy has decided to celebrate with the travels of giant space rocks. Based on calculations, an asteroid estimated up to three times the size of the Statue of Liberty will pass our planet sometime today.
Newsweek reported that NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies believes the large asteroid, named 2021 NY1, may measure as wide as 984 feet. The space rock should pass within 93,000 miles of Earth.
Additionally, reports state the asteroid will be traveling at a jaw-dropping speed of six miles per second, which equates to about 21,000 miles per hour. In other words, the rock should hurtle through space at about 27 times the speed of sound.
Sky Live further states 2021 NY1’s most recent approach will be the closest to Earth in at least a decade. Overall, then, the asteroid’s impressive size and speed prove quite the celebration as the autumnal season begins.
However, this monster of an asteroid won’t be the only space rock to hurtle past our Earth during today’s equinox. The outlet reports that the smaller asteroid, 2021 RX9, plans to zoom past our planet Tuesday. RX9 is nevertheless impressive in size as well. The smaller asteroid measures as wide as the Pyramid of Giza is tall, an impressive 128 feet.
More impressive, however, is the speed at which the smaller asteroid will be traveling. Scientists estimate RX9 to be traveling at 33,000 miles per hour. For reference, that equates to around 16 times as fast as a bullet fire by a rifle.
When Does an Asteroid Classify as a Near-Earth Object?
Overall, Earth’s autumnal equinox sees the approach of three significant NEO-classified asteroids overall. While NY1 makes the closest approach, measuring a range within 93,000 miles, the furthest asteroidal approach passes within a wider orbit of 2.2 million miles.
So, while at first the asteroids’ approaches seem incredibly distant from our planet, NASA’s qualification for NEOs (Near Earth Objects) remains pretty generous. According to Newsweek, NEOs consist of asteroids or comets that pass within a relatively incomprehensible distance of 121 million miles of our planet. Additionally, an NEO must complete an orbit of the Sun within a 200 year period.
The Center for NEOs has additionally been tracking these fascinating objects over the course of the last 23 years. The mission initially began when scientists in 1998 discovered a mile-wide asteroid named 1997 XF11 in 1998. They found that the space rock’s trajectory at the time put the object’s trajectory on a course to strike Earth in 2028, now only a few years away.
Since the agency’s startup, scientists have discovered numerous NEOs, numbering well over 25,000. Additionally, NASA’s identified a sub-category of NEOs, termed Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs). These asteroids and comets pose serious threats to Earth as they pass “dangerously close” to the planet.
However, for now, we remain safe from potentially hazardous asteroids and can enjoy Autumn’s arrival knowing we won’t be struck by an enormous space rock.