NASA is continuously monitoring cosmic bodies on the move that are set to approach Earth's orbit. The organization has recently observed one asteroid, which is expected to make its appearance close-by soon. The asteroid dubbed as '2020 GA3', is set to fly past us on Monday night at around 10:57 p.m.
NASA's Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (NCEOS) tracks several different asteroids, all of which are expected to fly closely to Earth upon their arrival.
The soon to arrive one, however, 2020 GA3, is the closest and most likely the first to be seen. With a size between 26 and 59 meters in diameter, it is larger than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It will have a speed of 17.42 km a second as it hurdles through space beside our planet.
Another giant space rock, 1998 OR2, will come close to Earth sometime next week and is the largest of the asteroids that will be coming near us this year.
Astronomers expect it to be more than a mile wide and twice as long. The estimates of the asteroid were made using radar imaging.
NASA estimates 1998 OR2 to be around 4 million miles away from Earth, which is pretty safe and avoids any complications for us. The distance may be astronomical, but in the relative scale of the universe, that is relatively close, which is why the space organization is monitoring its movements.
The moment it is at its closest distance to Earth will be on April 29 at around 5:56 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Several professional observatories have already set their telescopes at the massive chunk of rock to observe its trajectory. If you're an amateur, however, you'd still get to see it, but only as a slow-moving star.
If you are unfortunately not an owner of a telescope whatsoever, then the Virtual Telescope Project is hosting a free public viewing of the space rock beginning on April 28.
Who tracks these celestial bodies?
NASA monitors these cosmic bodies through their Near-Earth Object Observations Program, which aims to find, track, and characterize at least 90% of all predicted number of NEOs that are at least 140 meters in size.
The size is the minimum required that can be considered as posing a significant threat to Earth with the level of destruction it could potentially cause if it were to make an impact. While the program closely monitors all possible asteroids, there have been less than half of the estimated 25,000 NEOs fitting the criteria that have been found.
The NEOWISE project utilized the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer space telescope and repurposed it to continue surveying for NEOs and other small bodies with its technology. Its main advantage is it can accurately estimate the sizes of these NEOs that no other optical measuring device is capable of.
The Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), however, is located at the 13,800-foot summit of Maunakea in Hawaii and is used to study physical characteristics of NEOs with quick and immediate response to newly discovered ones.
NASA is always on the look-out for these extraterrestrial bodies to monitor and ensure that any threat that could come to affect us is adequately dealt with or responded to.