The giant asteroid in question is known as (465824) 2010 FR, which will make a close approach to our planet on September 6. At 162 metres in diameter, the asteroid in question is a true giant – measuring the same height as the Blackpool Tower and almost twice the size of Big Ben. And it’s not only huge, but is also exceptionally speedy – travelling at a whopping 14 kilometres per second.
Thankfully for us, 2010 FR will pass at a close distance of more than 7.5 million kilometres from Earth, but the giant space rock has still piqued the interest of astronomers.
As the asteroid was coming closer to Earth on September 4, researchers at the Virtual Telescope Project snapped into action to take some action shots of the approaching space rock.
With the asteroid being more than 7.8 million kilometres away at the time of the photograph, it was certainly an impressive spot.
The Virtual Telescope Project said: “The telescope carefully tracked the apparent motion of the asteroid, so stars result in long trails, while the asteroid looks like a sharp dot of light in the centre of the image. It is marked by an arrow.
Asteroid approach: ‘Potentially hazardous’ asteroid 2010 FR to fly past Earth tomorrow (Image: GETTY – VIRTUAL TELESCOPE PROJECT)
With the asteroid being more than 7.8 million kilometres away at the time of the photograph, it was certainly an impressive spot (Image: VIRTUAL TELESCOPE PROJECT)
“The Full Moon was not far in the sky, so the image was taken under less-than-ideal conditions: despite this, asteroid 2010 FR is well visible.
“At the imaging time, asteroid (465824) 2010 FR was at about 7.8 millions of km from the Earth and it was slowly approaching us.”
Despite the asteroid passing at a distance equivalent to 19 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, NASA has still dubbed it “potentially hazardous”.
The term ‘potentially hazardous’ refers to the sentiment that somewhere down the line in the solar system’s history, an asteroid could collide with Earth depending on its future orbits of the Sun.
What is a close approach? (Image: EXPRESS)
NASA said: “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.”
It is also a Near Earth Object (NEO), giving NASA the perfect opportunity to study the history of the solar system.
NASA said on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
Asteroids, meteors and comets (Image: EXPRESS)
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”