A Massive Asteroid Whizzes Past Earth Safely From a Million Miles Distance

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Sun (yellow) · Earth (blue) · Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1) 1994 PC1 (magenta)

At least one webcast caught 1994 PC1’s closest approach in the next 200 years. Sun (yellow) · Earth (blue) · Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1) 1994 PC1 (magenta)

A massive asteroid flew safely past our planet on Tuesday (Jan. 18), making its closest visit in the next two millennia.

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), designated as a near-Earth asteroid, came within five lunar distances of our planet, or one million miles (1.6 million kilometers).

The Virtual Telescope Project, situated in Rome, broadcast a webcast of the 3,400-foot-wide (1 km) object during the closest stage of its flyby, which happened at 4:51 p.m. EST (2151 GMT).

‘Icy Space Rocks Followed by Gassy Tails’

However, according to NASA, any asteroids or comets (which may be informally described as icy space rocks followed by gassy tails) come within 1.3 astronomical units (120.9 million miles, or 194.5 million kilometers) of Earth classified as near-Earth objects or NEOs.

An astronomical unit is an average distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Though no known objects there constitute an imminent danger to Earth, NASA keeps looking for them.

It monitors and hunts NEOs with telescopes in space and on the ground while analyzing potentially harmful ones through the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

The organization also tests prospective planetary defense systems, such as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will attempt to modify the route of an asteroid’s moonlet in the autumn of 2022.

On a bigger scale, Congress has mandated NASA to seek and notify at least 90% of all NEOs 460 feet (140 meters) and greater, which would include Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1).

The agency was supposed to complete the survey by 2020, but it could not do so.

Nonetheless, a specialized world-hunting telescope named NEO Surveyor is scheduled to debut in 2026 to complete the task in the next ten years. 

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