‘Potentially hazardous’ asteroid to make close but safe approach Thursday

NASA first observed the space rock on October 10, 2006
A huge asteroid potentially taller than the IBM tower in Atlanta will collide with Earth’s orbit this Thursday, according to tracking data from NASA.

Credit: Social media photo via Twitter

Credit: Social media photo via Twitter

A huge asteroid potentially taller than the IBM tower in Atlanta will collide with Earth’s orbit this Thursday, according to tracking data from NASA.

A huge asteroid potentially taller than the IBM tower in Atlanta is expected to pass near Earth’s orbit this Thursday, according to tracking data from NASA.

The size of the asteroid, called 2021 GM4, is estimated to be between 360- and 820-feet across and its speed at over 13,421 miles per hour.

It won’t get close to Earth and scientists predict it to pass by at a distance of 2.8 million miles, around 12 times as far as the Earth is from the moon, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The exact time of the asteroid’s approach is reported to be around 7:53 p.m. local time.

Asteroid 2021 GM4 poses no imminent threat to Earth but CNEOS has registered the space rock as “potentially hazardous.”

The term refers to the notion that at some point down the line in the solar system’s future, the asteroid has the potential to collide with Earth.

“Occasionally, asteroids’ orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter,” NASA said. “NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.”

“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”

Last Wednesday marked Asteroid Day, a day for public awareness of asteroids and their role in the solar system. The day was co-founded by astrophysicist and famed musician Dr. Brian May of the band Queen, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, filmmaker Grig Richters, and B612 President Danica Remy.

A variety of events and live streams are available through Friday on AsteroidDay.org.

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