Asteroid Dubbed “The Beast” Expected To Approach Earth This Weekend
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Last year, a massive asteroid that had gone undetected exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in a huge fireball and another, much bigger asteroid spotted in April is expected to buzz past Earth this weekend.
While the incoming HQ124 asteroid, aka “the Beast,” is not expected to make contact with the Earth’s atmosphere, professional skywatchers will be keeping close tabs on the massive space rock nonetheless.
“What’s disconcerting is that a rocky/metallic body this large, and coming so very close, should have only first been discovered this soon before its nearest approach,” Bob Berman, an astronomer with the online astronomy collective Slooh, told National Geographic. “HQ124 is at least 10 times bigger, and possibly 20 times, than the asteroid that injured a thousand people last year in Chelyabinsk.”
According to reports, the Beast is nearly 1,100 feet wide – about three-and-a-half football fields.
“If it were to impact us, the energy released would be measured not in kilotons like the atomic bombs that ended World War II, but in H-bomb type megatons,” he added.
Slooh will be providing a video feed of the flyby, which started on Thursday night. Broadcast from Australia, the feed will include time-lapse images from a Slooh robotic observatory in Chile. The video feed should show HQ124 passing about three lunar distances away from Earth at a speed of about 31,000 miles per hour.
In May, Slooh announced a partnership with NASA designed to inspire amateur astronomers to look for threatening asteroids. As a part of NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, Slooh will encourage amateur astronomers to check its telescope data for near-Earth asteroids.
Sky surveys are tracking around 90 percent of the possibly dangerous asteroids that are 3,200 feet and above in width. Space rocks at these sizes have the likelihood to demolish continents on impact. Just 30 percent of the 460-foot rocks have been tracked and less than 1 percent of the 98-foot Earth-orbit crossers have been spotted thus far.
While smaller rocks may not be devastating, they have the possibility to damage or level entire cities. The Chelyabinsk asteroid strike caused damage to buildings and blew out windows across the region.
According to a study published last month, the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk may have had a collision with another asteroid that sent it hurtling toward Earth.
According to an analysis of a mineral called jadeite found embedded in fragments recovered after the explosion, the parent body of the meteor had collided with a larger asteroid more than 490 feet wide and at a relative speed of 3,000 mph.
“This impact might have separated the Chelyabinsk asteroid from its parent body and delivered it to the Earth,” wrote lead author Shin Ozawa, from the University of Tohoku in Japan.
Jadeite is only formed under extreme pressure and high temperatures. The jadeite found in the Chelyabinsk meteorite fragments was formed under pressures of at least 3 to 12 gigapascals during a shock that was longer than 70 milliseconds, according to the study.
Scientists are still analyzing the fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteor and calculating its path toward Earth.