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Asteroids are like time machines, says Saudi astronomer

Sun, 2021-07-04 00:50

JEDDAH: A newly discovered asteroid has been spotted flying past Earth at a distance of 66,000 km and speeds of more than 11 km per second.

The seven-meter asteroid, dubbed 2021 NA, was seen at 7:57 a.m. KSA time on July 3. It is the 68th asteroid to pass within one lunar distance of Earth — equivalent to 384,401 km — since the beginning of the year.

Head of the Astronomical Society in Jeddah, Majed Abu Zahira, said that the asteroid belongs to the Apollo group, a collection of rocks with diameters ranging between 5.3 and 12 meters, and is also on the list of so-called near-earth asteroids whose trajectories intersects with Earth’s orbit.

The 2021 NA asteroid was first spotted at Pan-STARRS 1 observatory in Hawaii on July 1, two days before its close approach.

Abu Zahira said that if the asteroid were on a collision course with Earth, it would turn into a fireball as it plunges through the planet’s atmosphere.

The discovery of any asteroid helps advance our knowledge of the solar system, he added.

“These bodies are like time machines that hold many secrets and can tell us more about the origins of our planet,” he said.

Abu Zahira said that observing the movement of the latest asteroid is an excellent opportunity to test international capabilities to respond collectively to any future asteroid threat.

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