With the terrible year of 2020 coming to an end, NASA has published an alert about five asteroids due to overtake Earth on Wednesday and later this week, two of which will be closer to our planet than the moon.
About three space rocks, ranging in diameter from about the size of a telephone pole to two buses in London end-to-end, will blast near Earth on Wednesday.
The 11-meter-high asteroid 2020 XF4 will fly 343,000 kilometers (213,130 miles) followed by the 24-meter 2020 VY1 at a distance of five million kilometers, with the 2020 XS5 in the back at a safe distance of three million kilometers. For reference, the average distance between the Earth and the Moon is about 385,000 kilometers (239,000 miles).
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As the weekend begins for many, on Friday, the relatively small 6.6-meter-long 2020 XX3 rocket will scream across the Earth at 57,100 kilometers, followed shortly thereafter by the 30-meter space rock 2020 XF3 that will give the planet a much wider berth that passes through 6.9 million kilometers.
Meanwhile, and in more positive news, Japanese scientists are recovering after seeing unexpectedly large amounts of dust and gas taken from the Ryugu asteroid, after opening the sealed capsule that was dropped to Earth by the Hayabusa2 probe.
The Hayabusa spacecraft made a round-trip of nearly 400 million kilometers to collect and return subsurface samples from the distant asteroid, to unlock some of the universe’s mysteries, including the origins of life on Earth.
The mission may also yield insights into how best to prepare our planetary defenses in the event of an incoming asteroid stray closer than this week’s cosmic artillery array.
“When we did open it up, I was speechless. It was more than we expected and there was a lot that really impressed me.” Hirotaka Sawada told the scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
“They weren’t as fine as powder, but there were a lot of samples with a diameter of several millimeters.”
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Initial checks indicate that samples are contained ‘Too much organic matter’ According to Hayabusa Project scientist and Nagoya University professor Seiichiro Watanabe.
With more investigations and studies conducted here on Earth, the Hayabusa2 probe is heading outside to continue its mission and visit two other asteroids to search for more answers about life and the universe.
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