Two skyscraper-sized asteroids are heading towards Earth this weekend, with one coming closest on Friday (July 29) and the second passing on Saturday (July 30).
The first one asteroiddubbed 2016 CZ31, will fly around 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT) on Friday, speeding around 34,560 mph (55,618 km/h, according to NASA.
Astronomers estimate the asteroid to be about 400 feet (122 meters) in diameter at its widest point, making it about as wide as a 40-story building is tall. The asteroid will safely miss our planet, passing approximately 1,740,000 miles (2,800,000 kilometers) from Earth — more than seven times the average distance between the Earth and the moon. According to NASA, this space rock makes close approaches to Earth every few years, with the next scheduled for January 2028.
Related: Why do asteroids and comets have such strange shapes?
On Saturday, a second, increasingly larger asteroid will fly past our planet, but at a greater distance from Earth. This asteroid, named 2013 CU83, measures about 600 feet (183 m) in diameter at its widest visible point and will pass about 4,320,000 miles (6,960,000 km) from Earth, or about 18 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon.
This colossal space rock will travel at 13,153 mph (21,168 km/h) as it approaches Earth at 7:37 p.m. ET (23:37 GMT).
These two close encounters are much further apart than the asteroid 2022 NFwhich was within 56,000 miles (90,000 km) – or about 23% of the average distance between Earth and the Moon – on July 7.
NASA and other space agencies keep a close eye on thousands of near-Earth objects like these. Even if an asteroid’s trajectory places it millions of miles from our planet, there is an extremely slim chance that the asteroid’s orbit could shift slightly after interacting with the planet. gravity a larger object, such as a planet; even such a small change could potentially put an asteroid on a collision course with Earth in a future flyby.
As such, space agencies take planetary defense very seriously. In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will directly impact the 525-foot-wide (160 m) asteroid Dimorphos in autumn 2022. The collision will not destroy the asteroid, but it may change the orbital path of the space rock slightly, Live Science previously reported. The mission will help test the viability of asteroid deflection, should a future asteroid pose an imminent danger to our planet.
Originally posted on Live Science.