NASA has announced another asteroid flyby, one that will take place tomorrow, June 6. The event is notable because the asteroid will come close to Earth, relatively speaking. That doesn’t mean the planet is at risk, however — the space agency says there’s no need to panic because there’s zero chance the asteroid will hit the planet. How does NASA know for sure?
The space agency has detailed how it finds and tracks these nearby asteroids, which are called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). As you’d imagine, there’s quite a bit of science that goes into this process, including determining whether an NEO poses any sort of risk to our planet. As of now, NASA has found and is tracking more than 22,000 of these objects.
NASA considers an object an NEO if its orbit brings it within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit; many of these objects fly by our planet every year. To determine how close the celestial body will get to Earth, NASA scientists make observations of the asteroid and then use a computer model to anticipate its likely orbit.
The more observations that scientists can make, the more accurate the resulting computer model will be, NASA explains on its website. This time around, the flyby will involve 2002 NN4, an asteroid that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has classified as “potentially hazardous” due to its relatively close proximity to Earth.
According to the JPL website, 2002 NH4 has a diameter of around 0.5-miles, Ultimately, the computer models show that this asteroid will come to around 3.2 million miles from our planet, which is 13 times as far away as the Moon is to Earth.