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House-sized asteroid flies past Earth


An asteroid the size of a small house flew past Earth on Tuesday evening.

The space rock approached within 79,000 miles (127,000 kilometers) of Earth, or about a third of the distance between the Moon and Earth, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

Named 2022 GN1, it was estimated to be 24.3 to 55.8 feet (7.4 to 17 meters) long and traveled at 34,695 miles per hour (55,836 kilometers per hour), according to CNEOS.

It may look like a big asteroid, but it’s actually quite small, according to Gianluca Masi, founder and scientific director of the Virtual Telescope Project. Some of the largest span 0.62 miles (1 kilometer), he added.

GN1 is about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor, which was 18 meters long, said Mike Hankey, director of operations at the American Meteor Society.

The asteroid exploded near Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, creating a meteor shower that injured more than 1,000 people, Hankey said.

Unlike Chelyabinsk, GN1 posed no risk to people, said Gianluca Masi, founder and scientific director of the virtual telescope project.

“Its orbit was known enough to conclude with certainty that it was not going to hit us,” he said.

Close encounters like the flyby of asteroid GN1 offer scientists a chance to learn more about space rocks, Masi said.

“These close approaches are valuable opportunities to better study smaller objects, which would be too faint if they were too far away,” he said.

With asteroids, there is almost always a possibility that we could hit Earth. That’s why NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office monitors objects in space that could potentially harm the planet.

One of the organization’s latest initiatives is the DART mission, or NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

NASA is testing to see if an asteroid impact will change its direction and speed, which could be applied to objects that pose a threat to Earth in the future, the agency said.

The spacecraft launched Nov. 23 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenburg Space Force Base in California.

Its target is the Didymos asteroid system, consisting of a large asteroid called Didymos and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Dimorphos. NASA’s goal is to hit the smaller asteroid, which will shorten the time it takes Dimorphos to orbit Didymos by minutes, according to the space agency.

The spacecraft is expected to hit the asteroid on September 26, NASA said.

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