One-kilometer-wide asteroid captured by radar observatory

NASA’s Goldstone 70-meter (230 foot) antenna captured radar imagery of asteroid 2016 AJ193 on Aug. 22, 2021 as it passed about 2.1 million miles (about 3.4 million kilometers) away from Earth.

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A gigantic asteroid that is considered potentially hazardous by NASA zipped past the Earth at a very high rate of speed. The asteroid, called 2016 AJ193, flew past the Earth at a velocity of 58,000 mph. It’s hard to imagine a speed that high; it equates to traveling about 16 miles every second.

NASA estimates the asteroid is about 4800 feet wide, approximately four times as wide as the Empire State building is tall. The asteroid passes through the solar system every six years on its orbit around the sun. Scientists are taking advantage of its proximity to the Earth on this orbit to study it in detail.

Astronomers observed the asteroid using radar, which is similar to the tech used for tracking thunderstorms on Earth. 2016 AJ193 Is a medium-size Apollo class asteroid. NASA says it’s comparable in size to the Pentagon. At its closest approach to Earth, it passed within 3,427,445 kilometers.

Anyone can tell that it was very far from our planet, but that is considered a close flyby on the astronomical scale of things. The asteroid has an elliptical orbit around the sun, and at its closest point, it’s 0.60 AU from the Sun, and at the furthest point of its orbit is 5.93 AU. An astronomical unit (AU) is the distance the Earth orbits from the sun.

The close approach that happened yesterday was one of only two coming in the near future. 2016 AJ193 will make its next near pass to the earth on August 19, 2080, when it will be 6,999,373 kilometers from Earth. It will have slowed down from its current velocity of 26.169 km/s to 21.713 km/s on that orbit.