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Could an Asteroid Strike Come to Earth? One Astrophysicist Says So

June 30 marked Asteroid Day, a day that raises awareness of asteroids and how they can impact many large planets. The 2017 edition came on the 109th anniversary of more than 800 square miles of land in Siberian Russia being flattened by a large asteroid. Although that event did not result in any injuries or deaths, it did result in about 80 million trees being destroyed.

Alan Fitzsimmons, an astrophysicist at the Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre in Northern Ireland states that there is a strong chance that the planet could be hit by another surprise asteroid strike. This could entail a strike that is just as large as what happened in Siberian Russia more than a hundred years ago.

Fitzsimmons stated in a report first posted on Phys.org that there has been an increasing number of hazardous objects found floating outside of the Earth’s orbit. These include a number of asteroids that could be at risk of harming the planet.

This comes as the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office has been analyzing numerous objects that have come near the Earth’s orbit in the past year. Fitzsimmons cites that more than 1,800 harmful objects have been found around the planet’s orbit and that there is a strong risk that more such items could be discovered in the future.

Fitzsimmons particularly warns that the government needs to be more aware of what to do as a means of reducing the risk of asteroids coming down on the planet. As it becomes easier for people to identify different asteroids as they move around near the planet, there are still concerns that such large bodies might threaten the world.

Specific Asteroids to Watch For

The efforts of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office and various satellites utilized by NASA have continued to work to find asteroids. These include ones that are at risk of coming close to the planet. These are often identified based on their projected trajectories as many of these asteroids have their own orbits.

There are a few particular asteroids that NASA has spotted in recent time. These asteroids include the following with their approximate dates for when they will come near the planet listed.

These particular asteroids are measured based on how many lunar distances they could come from the planet. One lunar distance refers to the overall distance between the center of the Earth and the center of the Moon:

On July 23, 2017 BS5 is expected to come about 3.15 lunar distances or 752,900 miles from Earth. 2017 BS5 is about 300 feet in diameter.

2012 TC4 will come close to the Earth on October 12. This is 88 feet in diameter and will be about 0.15 lunar distances or 35,900 miles from the planet.

2008 WM61 will come about on December 3. It will be around 3.82 lunar distances from the planet and is about the same size as 2012 TC4.

2017 DR109 will come within 3.7 lunar distances of Earth on February 24, 2018. This is about 50 feet in diameter.

2004 FG29 will come by on April 2, 2018. It will be about 4 lunar distances away and has a diameter of about 100 feet.

(441987) 2010 NY65  is the largest identified asteroid that is expected to come near the planet although it will not come too close. It will continue to make annual appearances around the Earth’s orbit until 2022 based on its trajectory. This asteroid will come within 7.3 lunar distances of the planet at some point in 2018. This is the closest that the asteroid, which is around 750 feet in diameter, will come to the planet.

The asteroids are not expected to be impact events. However, 2012 TC4 is an alarming point for how it is expected to be one of the closest asteroids to reach near the planet in years. Still, the size of that asteroid is relatively small. There are still worries over where such an asteroid might land though.

It is unclear as to what could be done to keep asteroids like these from making a significant impact. Although the odds of them falling into the Earth’s atmosphere, Fitzsimmons does state that there needs to be a plant to control how such asteroids come about. This especially comes amid the worries that a major catastrophe might occur depending on where such an asteroid lands.

The threat of asteroids around Earth is strong as there are concerns over how dangerous some of these could be. However, the upcoming asteroids that are expected to get around the planet’s orbit are not expected to be major threats. The concern over future asteroids is still strong given how there is a very large number of asteroids and other objects floating around the planet.