Asteroids passing close to Earth in upcoming weeks

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:28 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Over the next few weeks, several asteroids as large as the cooling tower at Davis Besse will pass close to the Earth.

However, when considering the vastness of outer space, close is a relative term.

“On Friday there’s gonna be one that’s anywhere from maybe 250 to 500 feet in diameter that’s going to pass within 20 times the Earth-Moon distance, so safe,” says Michael Cushing, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Toledo and the Director of the Ritter Planetarium. “We’re not gonna have any problem on that but it’s close enough that we call it a near-Earth asteroid.”

While Near-Earth Asteroids of this size don’t pass by the Earth frequently, the phenomenon itself is not uncommon.

“There are about 2,000 or so near-Earth asteroids which are these asteroids which are defined as getting close to Earth,” Cushing said. “They pass by us on a relatively frequent basis.”

Despite the close pass, the asteroids will still be so far away that you won’t be able to see them in the night sky without a good telescope.

“It’s passing very, very far away from the Earth from a human perspective, but from an astronomical perspective it’s really close to us,” Cushing said. “From a human ‘do you need to worry about it’ perspective, no, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Technology has come a long way since the risk of asteroids first became understood, and now much of the sky above is monitored for any threats to Earth.

“NASA and astronomers around the world are doing a really heroic effort trying to track all of these asteroids to be able to predict where they’re going to be and whether there’s a possibility that they could potentially hit the Earth in the future,” Cushing said.

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