A giant asteroid is about two weeks away from Earth, and scientists at NASA say it’s trajectory is just a little too close for comfort.
The celestial object, known as the 2002 AJ129 asteroid, has officially been classified as “potentially hazardous” by NASA. Scientists say it will pass by Earth at around 67,000 miles per hour — about 15 times faster than the fastest manned aircraft humanity has managed to build, the hypersonic North American X-15, which has reached speeds of 4,520 mph.
Right now, scientists are projecting that the 2002 AJ129 asteroid will pass Earth at a distance of 2,615,128 miles, which means that if it’s nudged just a little closer it could wreak havoc on our planet. For comparison, the moon itself is 238,855 miles away from Earth.
NASA classifies an asteroid as “hazardous” if it comes within 4,600,000 miles — putting this one well within the realm of danger.
The other frightening factor is the asteroid’s size. It’s estimated to be about 0.7 miles wide, making it similar in size to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The 2002 AJ129 asteroid will be the largest space rock to pass our planet since on record.
Hypothetically, if the asteroid were to impact Earth, scientists warn that there would be a “very severe global impact.” The average temperature around the globe would likely drop by as much as 8 degrees Celcius, according to a study in 2016, ultimately leading to a new ice age.
“These would not be pleasant times,” said Charles Bardeen, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He presented the results of the study at the American Geophysical Union.
Scientist predict that soot would cloud the atmosphere for about 10 years, blocking sunlight and polluting the air. In addition, dust from the impact would remain in the air for about six years, according to the “worst case scenario” projections.
Currently, NASA has no means of preventing a cataclysm of this nature. There is a small craft, about the size of a refrigerator, which is being developed to to deflect asteroids, but it’s not usable yet. NASA says that their first test of the technology is set for 2024.