Asteroid 2021 GT2 was projected to fly safely through Earth orbit at a speed of 16,000 miles per hour (26,000 kilometers per hour) on Monday, June 6, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The space rock has an estimated size of between 121 and 272 feet wide, comparable to three times the size of a blue whale.
The celestial object was not considered a potential threat to our planet.
This is due to its flight distance of over 2 million miles, which is about 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.
(Photo: LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty Images)
Asteroid 2021 GT2 was first discovered on April 4, 2021 and last observed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Nasa Sunday, June 5.
The space object is classified as an Aten-class asteroid, which implies that its orbits around the Sun are closer than Earth.
This class of asteroids, still considered near-Earth asteroids (NEA), have only one orbital period or revolution around the Sun of less than one year, approximately every 342 days.
After the asteroid flyby, GT2 2021’s next close approach to Earth will take place on January 26, 2034 at a distance of 9 million miles (14.5 million kilometers), which is significantly further than the future approach, according to Live Science.
Sometimes called a “minor planet”, asteroids are remnants of the past when our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago.
The number of dominant and current asteroids to date is 1,113,527, according to the Exploration of the solar system NASA webpage.
2021 GT2 is just one of many “ancient space junk” orbiting the Sun, located between Mars and Jupiter.
This region of space is called the asteroid beltwhich contains a multitude of celestial rocks of various sizes and shapes.
NASA reportedly estimated that the total mass of the asteroid belt is even less than that of the Moon, which is far too small to be considered an official planet.
planetary defense exercise
NASA, along with other space agencies and space enthusiasts, monitors thousands of space objects.
However, space rocks of concern are those larger in size than a single blue whale, a school bus, or the Empire State Building in New York City.
In June 2004, astronomers detected a huge asteroid called 99942 Apophis.
Public and media concerns surfaced in December of that year, as early estimates of the chances of Apophis hitting Earth had an asteroid impact probability of up to 2.7% in 2029.
While estimates change in value over time, the last calculation of Apophis’ approach to Earth will be April 13, 2029.
However, potentially deadly ancient space rubble with a size of over 1,000 feet in diameter will only be a close encounter and unlikely to hit our planet.
The threat posed by Apophis is one of the many reasons why planetary defense measures are underway, including NASA’s development of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which aims to deflect against NEAs and other near-Earth objects (NEOs), such as asteroids, comets, and meteorites.
On May 31, NASA announced the completion of a planetary defense exercise which uses Apophis as an example of a fictional encounter based on a real-world asteroid strike scenario.
More than 100 participants, including NASA scientists, from 18 countries joined the event.
The exercise was the product of coordination between NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) and the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN).
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