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The Close Encounter of 2 Asteroids by Earth in November

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Two asteroids are set to pass close to Earth today, and while it may sound alarming, NASA assures us that there’s no threat to our planet. The NASA-affiliated Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been diligently monitoring these celestial visitors, and their research provides us with a fascinating glimpse into our cosmic neighborhood.


The first asteroid, named 2023 VS and belonging to the Apollo group of asteroids, is about the size of a car. It will make its closest approach to Earth at a distance of approximately 228,000 miles (or 368,000 kilometers). This car-sized asteroid, measuring about 12 feet (4 meters) in size, was first discovered this year.


The second asteroid, designated as 2023 VE, also part of the Apollo group, is more substantial, resembling the size of a bus. It measures around 35 feet (11 meters) and will pass within 734,000 miles (or 1,180,000 kilometers) of Earth.


To keep tabs on celestial visitors like these, NASA has an “Asteroid Watch” dashboard. This tracking tool provides crucial data about asteroids and comets, including their closest approach dates, approximate size, relative scale, and distance from Earth. Additionally, the “Eyes on Asteroids” webpage offers real-time visualizations of these space objects throughout our galaxy.


Despite the proximity of these asteroids, NASA emphasizes that they pose no threat to Earth. NASA typically categorizes asteroids as “potentially hazardous” if they are larger than about 150 meters. However, both 2023 VS and 2023 VE fall well below this threshold. For perspective, the average distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 239,000 miles (or 385,000 kilometers).


Asteroids are fascinating objects that provide valuable insights into the history and formation of our solar system. These rocky remnants date back to the early days of our solar system’s creation, some 4.6 billion years ago. Their study has the potential to unlock the secrets of how life’s essential building blocks may have arrived on Earth through ancient asteroid impacts.


The Jet Propulsion Laboratory underscores the importance of studying these space rocks. Asteroids are not only remnants of the early solar system but also the source of many meteorites that have impacted Earth’s surface. A thorough examination of these meteorites can yield critical information about their chemical compositions and physical characteristics.


While the likelihood of a catastrophic asteroid impact on Earth is rare, it is not entirely impossible. Larger asteroids could potentially cause localized or even global disasters with devastating consequences. Therefore, understanding their compositions, structures, sizes, and trajectories is vital to mitigate any potential risks.


Asteroid impacts on Earth are not mere theoretical possibilities. Small asteroids, typically a few meters in size, strike our planet every year. The consequences of such an event can vary depending on the asteroid’s size, speed, entry angle, and impact location. The results can include shock waves, fires, heat radiation, acid rain, tsunamis, large craters, and even climate change and extinction events triggered by dust and debris.


In summary, while the passage of asteroids 2023 VS and 2023 VE may raise curiosity and perhaps some concern, NASA’s vigilance in tracking these cosmic travelers ensures that our planet remains safe from any potential harm. This event serves as a reminder of the importance of ongoing space research to protect and understand our place in the cosmos.

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