Asteroid 2002 NN4 (163348) is expected to whiz past Earth on Saturday, July 6, in what NASA has described as a near-Earth object (NEO) and a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). The asteroid is between 250m and 570m, making it significantly bigger than the Shard, which stands at 310 metres. At its closest approach, asteroid 2002 NN4 will be just 0.034 astronomical units (AU) from Earth.
One AU (149,598,000 km) is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, so come Saturday, the asteroid will be 5,086,327 kilometres from our planet.
NASA has described the asteroid as an NEO, which allows the space agency to study the history of our solar system.
NASA set on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“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 left over 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.”
NASA also classed it as a PHA, stating: The space agency said: “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.”
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