Is a giant asteroid headed towards Earth? All you need to know

On July 25 around 3 am (IST), a large asteroid is expected to safely fly past our planet. Named “2008 GO20″, the near-earth asteroid could be about 200 metres in length, larger than a football field.

According to NASA estimates, it will whiz past Earth at a speed of 8.2 km per second and will be about three to four million kilometres away from our planet. This is almost eight to nine times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Frequent visitor

The latest visit by 2008 GO20 was on June 20, 2008, and it is expected to fly past again on July 25, 2034.

What are near-earth objects NEOs?

According to NASA, NEOs are asteroids and comets that come close to Earth. The majority of these NEOs are asteroids and are called Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs). NEAs are further divided into Atira, Aten, Apollo and Amor depending upon their distance and axes.

2008 GO20 is classified as an Apollo NEO. Apollos have an orbit near our Earth’s and are also called Earth-crossers as they cross the Earth’s orbit. They are named after the 1862 Apollo asteroid.

Is 2008 GO20 a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA)?

Near-Earth asteroids that fly below 0.05 astronomical units or 7.5 million km away are termed as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids. Since 2008 GO20 will fly by at 0.02 to 0.03 au away, it is a PHA. One astronomical unit is about 150 million km or roughly the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Is this a rare event?

No. According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, on July 21, six NEOs are expected to fly past Earth at a distance less than 0.05 au.

After 2008 GO20’s visit on July 24, NEOs named 2021 OF, 2020 BW12 and 2019 YM6 are expected to fly near Earth on July 26, July 27 and July 31 respectively.

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