An asteroid is passing close by Earth, but we are told not to worry.
On Aug. 10, Asteroid 2006 QQ23 will fly within 0.049 astronomical units (4.6 million miles) of Earth at about 10,400 mph (16,740 km/h). This might not seem close, but it is close enough to classify the object as a near-Earth asteroid.
Additionally, because it is within 0.05 astronomical units (4.65 million miles), it is close enough to be labeled as potentially hazardous.
The space rock measures about 1,870 feet in diameter, which is greater than the height of the Empire State Building, which stands 1,454 feet tall.
It might seem scary that a “potentially hazardous” asteroid about the size of a landmark building is coming close to Earth, but we shouldn’t worry about the rock crashing into our planet. The object is “more or less benign,” Lindley Johnson and Kelly Fast, who track near-Earth objects with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, told CNN.
NASA tracks comets and asteroids that veer close to Earth, not because they are imminent threats, but rather to ensure that they do not become threats.
Every year, about six space objects about the size of Asteroid 2006 QQ23 pass by Earth, making this close approach a routine event.
Currently, there are about 900 near-Earth objects measuring more than 3,280 feet, much larger than Asteroid 2006 QQ23, in our solar system, according to NASA JPL’s Center for near-Earth object studies.
While NASA doesn’t think that an asteroid will crash into Earth anytime soon, the agency does monitor near-Earth objects and both NASA and other space agencies are developing efforts to deflect asteroids if they threaten to impact our planet.
NASA is developing the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, which will be a planetary defense spacecraft. The agency plans to crash the spacecraft into asteroids that could potentially pose a threat to Earth. This is NASA’s first planetary-defense mission and the agency hopes that DART will keep Earth safe from rogue asteroids that might head our way.