According to the NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid might approach the planet at a lunar distance of only one. It is to be noted that the near-Earth object (NEO) was first observed on July 6, 2016. At that time, the asteroid 2016 NO56 approached the planet from a distance of only 0.00488 astronomical units or around 454,000 miles.
The NASA further revealed that the asteroid has a velocity of 27,000 miles per hour and has a diameter of 144 feet, making it almost as tall as the Chicago Water Tower.
However, CNEOS has now estimated that 2016 NO56 will fly by Earth today at 10:12 am ST. Once it approaches Earth, it will most likely be about 0.0087 astronomical units or 815,000 miles from the planet’s centre. This is equivalent to less than four times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Although the asteroid will be flying at a relatively safe range, NASA believes there’s a chance that it could approach Earth at a much closer distance, reports International Business Times.
Data collected by the CNEOS says, it’s possible that 2016 NO56 will approach Earth within a lunar distance of only one, which is equivalent to 0.00258 astronomical units or roughly 240,000 miles. At this range, the asteroid will almost be as far as the Moon is to Earth.
As per the previous studies, the trajectory path of asteroids can be affected by various factors in space such as gravitational keyholes. In case of 2016 NO56, its trajectory may have changed due to its previous approaches. Prior to its upcoming visit to Earth, it flew past the Moon and Venus in the year 2016 and 2018, respectively.
The gravitational pull from these cosmic bodies most likely altered the asteroid’s course and nudged it into a path near Earth. Similarly, NASA believes the asteroid might approach Earth at a much closer distance due to the planet’s gravitational pull.
On December 18 last year, a large meteoroid was exploded over the Bering Sea, however, it went unnoticed due to the remote location. According to the NASA, the explosion of meteoroid unleashed around 173 kilotons of energy, more than 10 times that of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima in World War II. Also, it was the most powerful explosion in the atmosphere since the fireball that burst over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk in 2013. That was 440 kilotons and left 1,500 people injured, mostly from glass flying out of smashed windows.