TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taipei Astronomical Museum issued a press release saying an asteroid with a diameter roughly the size of Taipei 101 will pass closest to Earth at 10:40 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 2).
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has named it Asteroid 2008 OS7, which will pass at a distance of 2,850,000 km, traveling at a speed of 18.2 kilometers per second. There is little to no chance that the asteroid will hit the Earth.
Astronomers estimate that millions of asteroids populate our solar system. Most are too far away to warrant designation as “potentially hazardous asteroids” (PHAs), which need to have an earth minimum orbit intersection distance of less than 0.05 astronomical units, roughly 7.5 million km.
So far, 2,349 PHAs have been discovered, the largest of which is 1999 JM8, with an estimated diameter of 7 km. Comparatively, 2008 OS7 is a smaller asteroid classified as an “Apollo-class Asteroid” with a brightness magnitude of 15 and passage near the junction of the Cetus and Eridanus constellations on Friday (Feb. 2).
Path of asteroid. (Taipei Astronomical Museum image)
Taipei Astronomical Planetarium said PHAs approach the Earth more often than the public knows. In 2024 alone, there will be 18 that will come within 0.05 astronomical units of the Earth.
Meanwhile, asteroid Apophis (99942) with a 370-meter diameter, will pass by the Earth less than 40,000 km away on April 14, 2029, almost the altitude of a current geostationary satellite. Scientists have temporarily ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact.
It’s estimated that only 156 of the more than 2,000 PHAs are larger than one kilometer in diameter and qualify for classification as large PHAs. If such a large asteroid hits the earth, it is likely to cause drastic changes in global geology and climate, or even become an extinction-inducing event.
But scientists urge the public not to be too concerned as, on average, such an event only occurs once every 440,000 years.