NASA spots asteroid rushing towards Earth at the speed of a missile

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With the help of its sky map and telescopes, NASA has issued an alert about an oncoming asteroid.

NASA’s NEOWISE or Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer completes its trip around the Sun every 12 months. The spacecraft takes images throughout the journey which are stitched together to form a sky-map. This sky-map shows the positions and the brightness of millions of celestial objects in space, according to NASA. NEOWISE also helps scientists keep an eye out for any asteroids which might have the potential of Earth impact. Now, NASA has issued a warning about an oncoming asteroid which could make its closest approach as soon as today.

Asteroid 2022 XY details

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office has issued an alert against an asteroid named Asteroid 2022 XY. The 85 feet wide asteroid, which is nearly the size of an aircraft, is expected to fly past Earth closely today, December 14, at a distance of 4.3 million kilometers. The asteroid is already on its way towards Earth, travelling at a staggering speed of 15799 kilometers per hour, matching the speed of a hypersonic ballistic missile!

Although this asteroid is not expected to impact Earth any time soon, a slight deviation in the asteroid’s path due to interaction with the planet’s gravitational field could change its trajectory and send it hurtling towards the planet with catastrophic consequences.

Most of these asteroids are observed with the help of the NEOWISE Project which repurposed NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer to work as a survey telescope and scan the sky for Near-Earth Objects. NASA then uses its ground-based radar to gather precise data about the asteroid’s path and its characteristics.

More about NASA’s sky-map

As of now, NASA has stitched 18 sky maps together using the images captured by the NEOWISE, with 19th and 20th maps to be released around March 2023. With the help of these maps, NASA scientists have created a time-lapse of the sky, showing the changes in position of numerous celestial objects, spanning across the last decade.

This move will help in better understanding of our Universe and enable scientists to study the changes in positions and brightness of space objects in the last decade. This is called Time-Domain Astronomy.


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