The Guardian
Email YouTube Facebook Instagram Twitter
Features  |  Science  

Massive asteroid set for close shave with Earth on April 19th

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor   |   13 April 2017   |   4:30 am

An asteroid as big as a bus came closer to Earth than the moon on April 1, 2017. The object, dubbed 2017 FJ101, zoomed passed within 202,000 miles (325,087 km) of our planet PHOTO CREDIT: DailyMailUK Online

Planet discovered just 219 light years away could host alien life
A ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid estimated to be nearly a mile wide is set for an alarmingly close flyby with Earth later this month.

Object 2014 JO25 is said to be ‘among the strongest asteroid radar targets of the year,’ and will pass by our planet within just 4.6 lunar distances on April 19.

According to United States National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA), it’s the closest shave we’ve had with an asteroid of this size in the last decade, and isn’t expected to come this close again for at least 400 years.

The Mt Lemmon Survey first spotted the object in May 2014. Its diameter is estimated to fall between 640 meters and 1.4 kilometers (0.4 to 0.9 miles).


Space Explorer Ron Baalke, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warned of the object in a tweet last year, showing how its orbit brings the massive space rock frighteningly close to Earth.

Asteroid 2014 JO25 is classified as a ‘potentially hazardous Asteroid,’ according to NASA.

But, it’s expected to flyby safely at about 4.6 lunar distances (roughly 1,766,400 km or 1,097,590 miles).

“The 2017 flyby is the closest by an asteroid at least this large since the encounter by 4179 Toutatis at four lunar distances in September 2004,” the space agency explains.

“The next known flyby by an object with a comparable or larger diameter will occur when 800-m-diameter asteroid 1999 AN10 approaches within one lunar distance in August 2027.

“The 2017 encounter is the closest by this asteroid for at least the last 400 years. There are no known future encounters by 2014 JO25 as close as the one in 2017 through 2500.”

NASA is planning ambitious mission that will see a robotic spaceship visit an asteroid to create an orbiting base for astronauts. The robot ship will pluck a large boulder off the space rock and sling it around the moon, becoming a destination to prepare for future human missions to Mars.

NASA plans to study the asteroid for about a year and test deflection techniques that one-day may be necessary to save Earth from a potentially catastrophic collision.

Although the target asteroid is not expected to be officially selected until 2020, NASA is using 2008 EV5 as the reference asteroid while the search continues for potential alternates. Before beginning its trip to lunar orbit, the ARM spacecraft will demonstrate a widely supported asteroid deflection technique called a gravity tractor.

The spacecraft plus the mass of the captured boulder will create a small gravitational attraction to alter the orbit of the large asteroid.

After collecting a multi-ton boulder from the asteroid, the robotic spacecraft will slowly redirect the boulder to an orbit around the moon, using the moon’s gravity for an assist, where NASA plans to conduct a series of proving ground missions in the 2020s.

There, astronauts will be able to select, extract, collect, and return samples from the multi-ton asteroid mass, and conduct other human-robotic and spacecraft operations in the proving ground that will validate concepts for NASA’s journey to Mars.

Astronomers have discove red an Earth-like planet just 219 light-years away, which could be a major step forward in the search for alien life.

This newly discovered world is only slightly larger than Earth and orbits a low-temperature star called M5V that’s one-fifth the diameter of our Sun.

Astronomers say this planet, which is a close relative of Venus, will be a prime candidate for looking for life in the next generation of space missions.

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope found Kepler-1649. It is just 219 light-years away and orbits a low-temperature star called M5V that’s one-fifth the diameter of our Sun. Its tight orbit causes the flux of sunlight reaching the planet to be 2.3 times as great as the solar flux on Earth. If orbiting planets such as Kepler-1649 huddle close to an M dwarf they could in theory fall within the habitable zone where life is possible.

The new planet, Kepler-1649, was found by astronomers using NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Its tight orbit causes the flux of sunlight reaching the planet to be 2.3 times as great as the solar flux on Earth.

If orbiting planets such as Kepler-1649 huddle close to their star, they could in theory fall within the habitable zone where life is possible.

The discovery will provide insight into the nature of planets around M dwarf stars, which are small, cool and relatively common in our universe.

“Planets like Kepler-1649b will be prime candidates for atmospheric and habitability studies in the next generation of space missions,” researchers said in the paper which is published in The Astronomical Journal.

While Earth and Venus evolved to have similar sizes and densities, it remains unclear what factors led to the dramatic divergence of their atmospheres.

According to SETI Institute scientist Isabel Angelo, the study of planets similar to the Venus analog Kepler-1649 is ‘becoming increasingly important in order to understand the habitable zone boundaries of M dwarfs.

Meanwhile, just days ago, the famous Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacombini-Kresák, flew past our planet at the closest distance since its discovery.

On April 1, the object came 13.2 million miles (21.2 million km) away from Earth.


Comet 41P belongs to the group Jupiter comets, which are objects that have been caught up in Jupiter’s massive gravity and now orbit between the sun and the giant planet.

The comet was first discovered in 1858 and circles the sun every five and a half years.

But this year the comet’s perihelion point, the part of its orbit that is closest to the sun, is just outside Earth’s orbit.

This created a six-day period from March 29 to April 3 when the comet will come closer to Earth than ever before.

It reached its closest point, roughly a tenth of the distance between the sun and Earth, on April Fool’s Day.


In this article:
AsteroidNASARon Baalke


You may also like