Asteroid flies past Earth 27 times faster than speed of sound

A “potentially hazardous” asteroid the size of a blue whale was set to fly past Earth on Friday.

 An asteroid is seen heading towards the planet in this artistic rendition. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
An asteroid is seen heading towards the planet in this artistic rendition.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

A “potentially hazardous” asteroid the size of a blue whale was set to fly past Earth on Friday, according to NASA.

The asteroid, named 2015 FF, had an estimated diameter of 13-28 meters (42-92 feet), flying past Earth at 33,012 km/h (20,512 mph).

The asteroid was set to come within about 4.3 million kilometers (2.67 million miles) of Earth—eight times the average distance between Earth and the Moon. With these small margins, NASA flags the space objects and categorizes them as “potentially hazardous.”

Once potentially hazardous asteroids are flagged, scientists usually keep a close eye on them just in case an unexpected “bump” occurs that can put these objects on a devastating collision course with Earth.

NASA's asteroid plan

 An asteroid is seen near Earth in this artistic illustration. (credit: PIXABAY) An asteroid is seen near Earth in this artistic illustration. (credit: PIXABAY)

NASA maps out asteroids using the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), an array of four telescopes that can perform a complete scan of the entire night sky every 24 hours.

Since ATLAS first went online in 2017, it has detected more than 700 near-Earth asteroids and 66 comets. Two of these near-Earth asteroids hit Earth. Fortunately, the asteroids were small enough that they did not damage anything.

NASA has estimated that near-Earth objects will not pose a catastrophic danger to Earth for at least the next 100 years. However, this does not mean that researchers will stop looking out for “potentially hazardous” asteroids.

Space agencies around the world are researching possible methods to deflect any possible asteroids that are headed straight toward Earth. NASA launched a spacecraft as a part of its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) in November 2021 that was supposed to redirect a non-hazardous asteroid by ramming it off course. Furthermore, China is working on launching 23 Long March 5 rockets at the asteroid Bennu with the aim of diverting a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact.