Asteroid 3 times the size of Taj Mahal to whizz past Earth. No need to panic, says planetarium official
An asteroid thrice the size of the Taj Mahal will pass close to Earth and according to Nasa, it will reach its closest approach late on Sunday. The Near-Earth Object, 2008 GO20, will hurtle past Earth at a speed of 8.2 km per second and will be about three to four million kilometres away from our planet.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), a Near-Earth Object (NEO) is generally defined as an asteroid or comet that approaches Earth less than 1.3 times the distance from the blue planet to the Sun and NEOs pose no danger at all.
Dr Subhendu Pattnaik, the deputy director of the Pathani Samanta Planetarium in Odisha's Bhubaneswar, has said there is no need to worry as there is no chance of 2008 GO20 colliding with Earth. "We should not panic. We can safely say that it will not hit the earth," Dr Pattnaik told ANI.
"This asteroid has visited Earth at a much closer distance of 19 lakh km and 29 lakh km in 1935 and 1977 respectively. At that time, it flew away and never came towards Earth. This time it is around 45 lakh km, which is about 11 to 12 times the Earth-Moon distance, so there is no danger of hitting Earth," he added.
Pattnaik said 2008 GO20 will be closest to Earth on Sunday at 11:21pm Indian Standard Time (IST). He said the gigantic asteroid is estimated to be 97m in width and 230 metres in length which will be around the size of four football fields put together.
He said that the asteroid is moving towards Earth at a speed of 29,000 kilometres per hour, an average of 8 kilometres per second. "Given this high speed, anything that crosses the path of the asteroid will be destroyed," Pattnaik said.
The last time the near-earth asteroid visited was on June 20, 2008, and it is expected to fly past again on July 25, 2034.
Millions of asteroids, ranging in the size from one metre to hundreds of kilometres, orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter and are sometimes attracted to Earth by its gravitational pull. Pattnaik said 99.9 per cent of them are burnt to ashes in the atmosphere even before they hit Earth's surface.
"Scientists have now compiled a list of more than 23,628 large asteroids that move closer to earth and are monitoring their movements. Out of these, only 1,045 have been classified as potentially dangerous asteroids which are named as Near-Earth Objects (NEO)," he said.
(With agency inputs)