Explained: The Steroid Twice as Big as Giza Pyramid about to Cross Earth’s Orbit Soon

Context: NASA has been tracking asteroid 465824 2010 FR, which is twice as big as the Pyramid of Giza and is expected to cross the Earth’s orbit on September 6.

  • It is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO) and a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

Analysis

  • NASA defines NEOs as comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

What is an Asteroid?

  • Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets.
  • As per NASA, there are approximately 1 million known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.
  • Most such objects can be found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • The explanation for the concentration of asteroids in this belt comes from the formation of Jupiter, whose gravity brought an end to the formation of any planetary bodies in this region, as a result of which the smaller bodies kept colliding with each other, fragmenting into asteroids.
  • Other than those found in the main asteroid belt, asteroids can be classified into trojans, which are asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet.
  • The third classification of asteroids can be as Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA), which have orbits that pass close by the Earth.

Why do Scientists Track Asteroids?

  • Scientists study them to look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun, since asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system. 
  • Another reason for tracking them is to look for asteroids that might be potentially hazardous.

When do asteroids become dangerous?

  • The objects that can cause significant damage upon impacting are larger than 30 metres.
  • Every year, about 30 small asteroids hit the Earth, but do not cause any major damage on the ground.

How are Asteroids Named?

  • They are named by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

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