But despite its classification, the object scientifically known as 2021 KT1 does not post any hazard at all, at least during this trip around our planet.
2021 KT1 will pass by at a safe distance of 4.5 million miles from Earth, much further away than the Moon is. It will make its journey at a speed of 40,000mph.
The asteroid is some 600 feet long and – as its name suggests – was discovered earlier this year.
Nasa designates any near-Earth object that is more than 492 feet in size, and comes within 4.6 million miles, as “potentially hazardous”. As such, 2021 KT1 only just comes close enough to even be given the designation.
It means that they will be tracked closely as part of the space agency’s role in cataloguing and predicting near-Earth objects, and working out plans to respond if one were at risk of colliding with Earth.
Six more asteroids will also be flying past Earth this week, though all of them are smaller than 2021 KT1. While such close encounters offer an opportunity for scare stories about the risk of collision with Earth, they also often present an opportunity for scientists to get a closer than usual look at such objects, which can reveal detailed information about other parts of the solar system.
Nasa has detailed plans for any asteroids that really do pose a danger to Earth. But a tabletop exercise performed last month suggested that they may not be adequate – the simulation of how humanity might respond ended in unavoidable disaster.
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