Of the three space objects entering Earth’s neighborhood, asteroid 2020 RT1 is said to be the first in the bunch to make what is known as near-Earth approach. This will see the space rock as close as 0.03442 astronomical units (au) from our planet, which is equivalent to 3,199,538 miles.
Even though this may seem an incredibly huge distance for the asteroid to fall into the NEO category (near-Earth object), this is actually relatively close when compared to the infinite scope of space.
Asteroids Skimming Past Earth Today
Asteroid 2020 RT1 is the biggest of the trio, with an estimated diameter of about 250 feet (76 meters). To put its size in context, the object would be bigger than the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Its traveling speed through space is measured at 10.07 km/s (24,606 mph), and NASA researchers say this amount of energy would be enough to destroy a city if it were to collide with Earth. Still, the space agency says asteroid RT1, or any other known asteroid, for that matter, poses no threat to our planet.
The second one, asteroid 2020 RM, is believed to have a significantly smaller size, with a diameter estimated to range between 36 feet to 80 feet (11 meters to 24 meters). It is said to be only 0.00700 au from Earth at its closest approach, which is equivalent to 650,690 miles. This is about twice the average distance from our planet to the Moon.
Because of its small size, it would most likely not survive Earth’s thick atmosphere if it were to crash on our planet. Rather, this space object would simply burn out, probably while forming a fireball visible from the ground.
The final event to take place today is when asteroid 2020 RA1 is set to pass by Earth; this space rock has an estimated diameter of 160 feet (49 meters) and is the fastest of all three NEOs skimming past our planet today, with a believed speed of 10.10km/s (22,593 mph).
Why is NASA Tracking Asteroids?
NEOs include both comets and asteroids pushed by nearby planets’ gravitational pull into orbits, making them enter Earth’s vicinity. Most rocky asteroids are, however, located and have formed in the inner Solar System zone between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, a region known as the Asteroid Belt.
NASA said in a statement: “The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago. The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the leftover bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.”
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. As the primitive, leftover building blocks of the solar system formation process, comets and asteroids offer clues to the chemical mixture from which the planets formed some 4.6 billion years ago,” the space agency further explained.