‘Potentially Hazardous’ Asteroid To Zoom Really Close To Earth This Weekend

A “potentially hazardous” space rock, officially known as Asteroid 2016 AJ193 — measuring 1.37 kilometers (0.85 miles) — is flying about 2.1 million miles away from Earth this weekend, according to a report from IFL Science.

Reports had it that the massive asteroid is flying about “8.9 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.” Though it may not sound close by, professional astronomers find it an excellent opportunity to observe and study the asteroid using the Goldstone Observatory in California together with observatories in Spain, Germany, Italy, and Russia as this is its “closest approach for several decades.”

Since the asteroid was first spotted in 2016 by the Haleakala Observatory’s Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) facility, it has been deemed “potentially hazardous” with a size larger than 99 percent of all known Near-Earth objects. It is estimated to be comparable to Burg Khalifa, the tallest structure and building on Earth.

Franck Marchis, chief scientific officer at Unistellar, the flyby of the AJ193 this weekend, is a clear reminder to watch this massive asteroid that has the potential to obliterate the Earth.

An asteroid, the size of Burg Khalifa, is expected to pass real close to Earth.
Photo credit: National Geographic

“Not only is 2016 AJ193 a near-Earth asteroid, but it is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. The flyby from a roughly 1-mile (~1.4 kilometers) large body does not only require specific attention, but it is also a clear reminder of the importance of building a community of observers capable of observing the sky from everywhere and all the time.”

Typically, AJ193 orbits around the Sun every 5.9 years. It goes far beyond the orbit of Jupiter and then as far as the orbit of Venus. Aside from the flyby this weekend, astronomers say that its subsequent close encounter to Earth will be on August 19, 2080, though it will have twice as much distance away than it will be Saturday.