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Giant asteroid to fly by Earth today; NASA reveals details

A giant asteroid is likely to pass by Earth on Tuesday. Space agencies around the world, including NASA, are on alert as a gigantic stadium-sized 680-foot wide asteroid is expected to fly by the earth on 20 December. According to a report by HT Tech, the US space agency has named the asteroid 2014 HK129, which will make its closest approach to earth at a distance of 2.5 million kilometres.

It will move at a speed of 41689 kilometres per hour, which is nearly 3 times the speed of a hypersonic ballistic missile.

The asteroid 2014 HK129 belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids. It was first discovered on 27 April 2014. The asteroid takes 810 days to complete a trip around the Sun during which the maximum distance from the Sun is 379 million kilometres.

How does NASA study asteroids?

The US space agency uses its telescopes and observatories like NEOWISE to study distant asteroids. The space agency also has a new impact monitoring system in place which uses an algorithm called Sentry-II to calculate the impact risk of near-earth objects.

In October this year, NASA’s DART spaceship struck the asteroid Dimorphos in a historic test of humanity’s ability to prevent a cosmic object from devastating life on Earth.

DART’s celestial target was an oblong asteroid “moonlet” about 560 feet (170 meters) in diameter that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin.

The mission represented a rare instance in which a NASA spacecraft had to crash to succeed. DART flew directly into Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph), creating the force scientists hope will be enough to shift its orbital track closer to the parent asteroid.

APL engineers said the spacecraft was presumably smashed to bits and left a small impact crater in the boulder-strewn surface of the asteroid.

DART is the latest of several NASA missions in recent years to explore and interact with asteroids, primordial rocky remnants from the solar system’s formation more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Last year, NASA launched a probe on a voyage to the Trojan asteroid clusters orbiting near Jupiter, while the grab-and-go spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is on its way back to Earth with a sample collected in October 2020 from the asteroid Bennu.

Nine Indian students participated in global asteroid search campaign

Separately, nine students of a private school in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district participated in a global asteroid search campaign as part of NASA’s citizen science project.

The campaign was organised by Delhi-based Homi Lab in association with the International Astronomical search collaboration (IASC) from October 21 to November 15.

According to the PTI news agency, Shrnya, Abhay Pratap Singh, Divum Bharti, Rashi Sharma, Alyssa Sardhalia, Samar Pratap Singh Bhadwal, Mehul Sharma, Mrigan Kamouli Vaishisth and Pranaya Mahajan from Spring Dales English School Kathua participated in the Kalam Asteroid Search Campaign.

A total of 105 participants from nine countries were selected across the globe through a rigorous screening process and were later trained to analyse data and spot potential asteroids close to the earth.

All selected participants were provided highly specialised training in order to operate the advanced astronomical software, Astrometrica.

This software is used to analyse images from the ‘Pan Starrs’ (The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) telescope, located in Hawaii, USA. It uses a 1.8 m (60 inch) telescope to survey the sky to look for asteroids, comets, and Near-Earth Objects (NEO).

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Abdullah Anaman
Abdullah Anaman
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