Home Science NEO To Cross Earth’s Orbit On Wednesday

NEO To Cross Earth’s Orbit On Wednesday

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KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2020 PO follows an Earth-crossing orbit
  • The asteroid is not in danger of hitting Earth or causing a mid-air explosion during its upcoming flyby

NASA’s automated tracking system has detected an asteroid that’s currently moving toward Earth. According to the data collected by the agency, the incoming asteroid will intersect the planet’s path during its near-Earth approach.

The asteroid was identified by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 2020 PO. As indicated in CNEOS’ database, 2020 PO has an estimated diameter of 118 feet. It is currently traveling across space toward Earth at a speed of over 32,000 miles per hour.

2020 PO was first observed on Sunday, Aug. 9. After studying the asteroid’s trajectory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was able to create an orbit diagram that depicts 2020 PO’s flight path. According to the diagram, 2020 PO has a narrower orbital axis than that of Earth.

As the asteroid completes its cycle around the sun, it occasionally intersects Earth’s orbit. Aside from Earth, 2020 PO is also known to cross the path of Venus. Due to the nature of its orbital axis and its Earth-crossing trajectory, 2020 PO was classified as a member of the Aten family of asteroids.

2020 PO is expected to cross Earth’s orbit on Wednesday. If it ends up colliding with the planet, the asteroid is not expected to hit the ground. Given its size, the asteroid is not big enough to cause an impact event on Earth.

Instead, 2020 PO will likely burn up in the atmosphere and cause a powerful explosion in the sky. Depending on the altitude of the explosion, 2020 PO’s airburst could damage thousands of buildings on the ground.

Fortunately, 2020 PO is not in danger of hitting Earth or causing a mid-air explosion during its upcoming approach. According to CNEOS, 2020 PO will zip past Earth on Wednesday at 7:31 a.m. EDT at a safe distance of 0.01061 astronomical units, which is equivalent to about 986,000 miles.

2020 PO’s next near-Earth approach will take place on July 31, 2021. During this time, NASA noted that the asteroid would safely fly past Earth at a distance of around 0.38371 astronomical units or roughly 36 million miles from the planet’s center.

asteroids_passing_earth Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA

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