NASA warns that an asteroid the size of a 98-feet plane is heading towards Earth soon

NASA’s watchful eyes in the sky have detected an asteroid called 2024 LB4 that is set to pass very close to Earth. The asteroid, which is about the size of a commercial airliner with a diameter of 98 feet, is on a trajectory that will bring it within 1,800,000 miles of our planet. The projected date of this encounter is June 16, 2024, when the asteroid will fly past Earth at a staggering speed of 7.59 kilometers per second.

The discovery and tracking of 2024 LB4 is part of NASA’s ongoing efforts to monitor near-Earth objects (NEOs) that could potentially pose a threat to our world. While the term ‘plane-sized’ may conjure up images of a catastrophic impact, it’s important to understand the context and scale of space. The distance that 2024 LB4 will pass is considered safe by astronomical standards, as it is about eight times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) keeps a watchful eye on such celestial bodies through its Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Using a network of telescopes and radar systems, CNEOS calculates the orbits, sizes, and potential hazards of asteroids like 2024 LB4. This particular asteroid is one of many that regularly pass near Earth, a reminder of our solar system’s dynamic and ever-changing environment.

For those who don’t know, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a renowned research and development center that specializes in building and operating robotic planetary spacecraft. JPL is dedicated to the exploration of the solar system and beyond, focusing on robotic missions to study planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. Also, the laboratory develops technology and missions to monitor Earth’s atmosphere, climate, and surface changes.

Tracking asteroids is a complex process that involves observing the object over time to refine its orbit and predict future paths. For 2024 LB4, observations have provided enough data to reassure scientists that its journey will not end in a collision with Earth. However, studying such objects provides valuable information about the composition and behavior of asteroids, which can inform future missions or planetary defense strategies.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) is tasked with identifying and mitigating potential threats from NEOs. In collaboration with other U.S. agencies and international partners, the PDCO develops and coordinates efforts to protect Earth from impacts. One such effort was the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which successfully altered the orbit of a small moon in the binary asteroid system of Didymos, demonstrating a viable method of asteroid deflection.

The upcoming visit of asteroid 2024 LB4 is no isolated event. It is part of a larger group of asteroids that will make their closest approach to Earth in June 2024. These include asteroid 2024 LZ2, which will come within 823,000 miles of Earth on June 14, and asteroid 2024 LH3, a larger body 150 feet across, which will maintain a safe distance of 3,090,000 miles on June 16.

Researching and tracking asteroids is important to increase our knowledge of the universe and protect Earth. Although 2024 LB4 is not a threat, it is proof of NASA and its partners’ ability to keep close tabs on the universe. The knowledge gained from these close interactions broadens our understanding and prepares us to deal with any future threats from our celestial neighbors.

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