Asteroids are distributed throughout our solar system and range in size from minuscule millimeters to enormous hundreds of kilometers. Earth’s gravitational force attracts asteroids, meteors and other celestial objects towards it, resulting in surface impacts. NASA and other space agencies are responsible for monitoring these Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) using telescopes both on the ground and in space.
Recently, NASA has reported that another asteroid is rapidly approaching Earth, and while it is not expected to cause global destruction, it will come very close to our planet.
Asteroid 2022 YK4 details
NASA has warned that Asteroid 2022 YK4 is on its way towards Earth today, March 29, travelling at 8202 kilometers per hour, a speed which is slower than other asteroids which pass by Earth closely. It will make its closest approach to the planet at a distance of 4.5 million kilometers.
According to NASA, Asteroid 2022 YK4 is not nearly big enough to be called a planet-killer. It is estimated to be about 79 feet wide, making it as big as an aircraft. It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids, which are a group of Near-Earth asteroids named after the humongous 1862 Apollo asteroid, discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s.
According to the-sky.org, Asteroid 2022 YK4 orbits the Sun in around 445 days. During this trip, its farthest point from the Sun is at 195 million kilometers and its nearest point is 146 million kilometers.
Tech behind NASA’s NEOWISE telescope
NASA’s space-based telescope called NEOWISE has identified hundreds of other asteroids while scanning the skies at near-infrared wavelengths of light from its polar orbit around Earth. But the NEOWISE wasn’t built for this purpose.
It was a data retrieval project to get back asteroid detections and characteristics from WISE, a NASA observatory launched back in 2009. In 2011, the coolant aboard the spacecraft ran out, which is necessary as the spacecraft used cryogenically cooled detectors that made them sensitive to infrared light. Since the spacecraft’s infrared sensors were working efficiently, NASA repurposed it to track various Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) such as asteroids, and it was named NEOWISE.