Everyone who has seen Michael Bay’s Armageddon probably worries at least one about asteroids ending all life on Earth. These are not unfounded worries. A large, well placed space rock can really do a lot of damage.
The odds of this happening are generally quite small. Both Jupiter and the Moon protect us from the bulk of all in-flying space debris from the asteroid belt and beyond. On top of that smaller rocks usually burn up in the atmosphere. Larger ones often fall into the ocean or uninhabited areas. However, every now and then something does get through and happens to fall onto an inhabited area. Like the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor explosion that ‘only’ had a 20m (65 ft.) diameter.
An asteroid called 2009JF1 is roughly 130m (425 ft) in diameter. It is expected to nearly miss, or hit the Earth on the 6th of May 2022. Where is 2009JF1 now you may wonder? It is sizzling through space at an amazing --,--- (--,---).
Where is Asteroid 2009 JF1 now?
3D Web App
Asteroid 2009JF1 is currently --,--- from us, getting --,--- --,--- us every second. It flies past Earth at an incredible speed, at --,---.
Since last night 2009JF1 is --,--- --,---. Since you started looking at this page it is --,--- --,---.
NASA, other space agencies, astronomers and even hobbyists spend a lot of time on searching the sky for these so-called near Earth objects (NEOs). They try to deduce their orbit as accurately as possible. Astronomers then rank the objects by impact probability and put them onto a list. You can find the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Risk list here: https://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
Number six on this list is an asteroid called 2009JF1. Named after the year that it was spotted zipping in between the Earth and the Moon. Until recently scientists thought that it was roughly 130m (425 ft) in diameter. This is about the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Such an asteroid, if it would hit us, would unleash energy equivalent to 230 kilotons of TNT. This is over 15 times the strength of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. An explosion of that calibre could easily devastate a smaller country. It could potentially cause massive earthquakes, tsunamis or even volcano eruptions. It is expected to nearly miss, or hit the Earth on the 6th of May 2022. Where is 2009JF1 now you may wonder? It is sizzling through space at an amazing --,---. Check out the 2009JF1 tracker above for a 3D view of it’s orbit through the solar system.
Monitoring dangerous objects
This is why NEOs of this caliber are constantly monitored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory by means of an automated system called ‘Sentry’. This system aggregates an enormous amount of data that can be analyzed by the worlds brightest. From this we found that 2009JF1 is an Apollo asteroid which means it’s orbit around the sun is larger than the Earth’s.
There are however two points in every orbit where Earth and asteroid 2009JF1 cross each other’s path. This is when the risk of a collision is ever present given enough time. But there is also good news as the odds of the asteroid hitting us have been calculated to be about 1/3985 or 0.025%, and on top of that the asteroid was found to be much smaller than expected. The new size estimate is that it has a diameter of 13m (43ft.) and was found based on the brightness of the space rock.
This last fact is what greatly reduced its risk factor, but at the wrong place and time it can still hurt or kill many people, as it is not much smaller than the Chelyabinsk meteor. We should also keep in mind that 2009JF1 is only one of 1068 NAOs that are currently on ESAs Risk list.
*This Interactive 3D Simulation is built on data provided by NASA JPL HORIZONS database for solar system objects and International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Distances and speeds are estimates based on this data.
Photo Credit and other: NASA, ESO/S. Brunier, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI, NASA/JPL-Caltech, JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaborators, UH/IA, Solar System Scope/INOVE CC BY 4.0, Wikipedia/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, icons8.com, Péter Eke, NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Roman Tkachenko, Wikimedia Commons, Hayabusa 2 Arrival illustration by Akihiro Ikeshita (permission granted), oNline Web Fonts, Font Awesome, Galaxy vector created by stories – www.freepik.com