NASA Warns of “Potentially Hazardous” Asteroid Approach

Image of an asteroid (not 1989 JA)

Image of an asteroid (not 1989 JA)

Alyx Pawlawski, Editor

According to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), an asteroid four times the size of the Empire State Building is predicted to make a dangerously close approach to Earth on May 27.

The asteroid, named 1989 JA, is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid that is 1.8 kilometers in diameter, making it larger than 99% of all asteroids. As the name implies, the enormous asteroid was first discovered by astronomer Eleanor Helin in 1989 from the Palomar Observatory in California, and was only recently officially seen again on May 10 of this year. It is predicted to pass within 4,024,720 kilometers of Earth this week, which sounds extremely close, but it will pass safely as that distance is approximately 10 times the average distance between the Earth and our moon. Even though the asteroid will miss our planet by about 4 million kilometers, NASA has still classified it as Potentially Hazardous due to its enormous size, close proximity, and due to the fact that it is an Apollo Asteroid, meaning it crosses Earth’s orbit. If the asteroid’s orbit ever changes and comes into contact with Earth, it could potentially cause significant damage.

Senior planetary astronomer and Unistellar co-founder/Chief Scientific Officer Franck Marchis said that the asteroid is moving at approximately 30,000 miles per hour. For context, Marchis explains “that is 17 times the speed of a bullet through the air. At this speed, the asteroid could travel around the planet Earth in 45 minutes”. Again, this may sound concerning, but NASA has reassured the public that the Earth is in no danger and the asteroid will safely pass by us.

After its predicted flyby on the 27th, the asteroid is not expected to pass by Earth again until June 23, 2055 at an even farther distance of 27,707,908 kilometers away. After that, it is not expected to be seen again until 2081.