Asteroid set to pass Earth at a breakneck speed of 51636 kmph; NASA reveals size, other details

NASA says asteroids are ancient space rocks left over from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. While most space rocks are located in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, they can also come close to Earth on some occasions, potentially posing a threat to the planet. But how does this happen? NASA says that the orbits of asteroids can be changed by Jupiter’s massive gravity and by occasional close encounters with planets like Mars or other objects. These accidental encounters can knock asteroids out of the main belt and hurl them into space in all directions across the orbits of the other planets.

With the help of its advanced space and ground-based telescopes, NASA has now revealed that an asteroid is expected to pass Earth by a close margin today, January 16. Know the details of this close encounter.

Asteroid 2021 CZ2: Details of close approach

On a few occasions, the orbits of these asteroids bring them close to Earth, a phenomenon known as a ‘Close approach’. According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, an asteroid, given the designation of Asteroid 2021 CZ2, is on its way towards Earth and could pass Earth at a very close distance today, January 16. 

As per the details, Asteroid 2021 CZ2 is expected to pass Earth by a distance of 3 million kilometers. It is already hurtling in its orbit at a speed of about 51636 kilometers per hour, which is much faster than an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)! In terms of size, this asteroid is almost 350 feet wide, which is almost as big as a building!

NASA has revealed that Asteroid 2021 CZ2 belongs to the Aten group of asteroids, which are Earth-crossing Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) with semi-major axes smaller than Earth’s. They are named after the asteroid 2062 Aten and the first of its kind was discovered by American astronomer Eleanor Helin at Palomar Observatory on January 7, 1976.

Shockingly, this will not be Asteroid 2021 CZ2’s first-ever close approach to Earth. It passed Earth for the first time ever on January 29, 1910, when it flew past the planet at a distance of 65 million kilometers. After today, this space rock will again pass the planet this year on July 13, at a distance of 72 million kilometers.

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