2 Burj Khalifa-sized asteroids to skim past Earth today

Two massive asteroids of the size of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, are set to skim past the Earth on Saturday and early Sunday, Indian Standard Time. The asteroids, 2000 QW7 and 2010 CO1 are so gigantic that they are even called minor planets, with width ranging from 290 to 650 metres. 

But while warning about these asteroids, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Centre for Near Object Studies (NEOS) was clear: “Orbit calculations ruled out any chance that the objects could pose a threat to our planet.” 

Here’s something more to give us some comfort: The 2000 QW7 had approached the Earth on September 1, 2000, and it was at a pretty safe distance. 

“These asteroids have been well observed — once since 2000 and the other since 2010 — and their orbits are very well known,” says Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer and program executive for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. 

The NASA website had Johnson elaborating further: “Both of these asteroids are passing at about 14 lunar distances from the Earth, or about 3.5 million miles away, but small asteroids pass by Earth this close all the time.”

Flypast in Indian time

The Near-Earth asteroid 2010 C01, estimated to be 120 to 260 meters in size, is expected to safely pass Earth at 9.12 pm IST on Saturday. The second object, 2000 QW7, of about 290 to 650 m in size will pass later at 5.24 am on Sunday IST. 

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are asteroids and comets that orbit the Sun, but their orbits bring them into Earth’s neighborhood – within 4.82 lakh km of Earth’s orbit. This is just a bit more than the Earth-Moon distance of 3.84 lakh km. 

These objects, as NASA puts it, are relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.6 billion years ago. Most of the rocky asteroids are originally formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, while comets, composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, are formed in the cold outer solar system.

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