Giant asteroid bigger than Burj Khalifa whizzes safely past UAE

Some space enthusiasts unable to capture rare celestial event on camera

Reuters file photo used for illustrative purpose
Reuters file photo used for illustrative purpose

Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 19 Jan 2022, 5:28 PM

A near-Earth asteroid bigger than Burj Khalifa whizzed safely past the Earth on Wednesday early morning (UAE time), but space enthusiasts in the UAE, waiting to watch this celestial event, were left disappointed due to the dense cloud cover.

The asteroid flew past the Earth at a distance of 1.9 million kilometres, which is about five times the distance between the Earth and Moon.

The asteroid has been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to its large size and flyby closeness to Earth.

It’s said no asteroid will come as close to Earth as this one for the next 200 years.

Waiting to capture the rare phenomenon, a Sharjah-based Astro photographer, Prabhakaran, said, “I have been capturing celestial objects, eclipses and rare events like meteor showers and these asteroid passes. But on Tuesday night/Wednesday early morning the sky was cloudy all over the UAE. I was waiting to capture it, but unfortunately it was too cloudy so I couldn’t capture any photos or videos.”

He adds, “I was definitely a bit disappointed but have captured asteroids in the past. For instance, in 2020 there was another asteroid that came very close to Earth. That came about 6.3 million km closer to Earth. I even took a video of it that time.”

Sharing tips and techniques, Prabhakaran explains how he captures these celestial events.

“You just need a normal camera, even a VSLR camera with a long tele photo lens can help capture it. All one needs to do is just take short exposures of 10-15 seconds and take several images and play it like a time lapse. When you play it like a time lapse, the background stars will be fixed and, in the foreground, one would see a moving object,” he avers.

The Indian expat underlines, “If the object moves very fast then it would mean a satellite but if one sees an object move very slowly then it must be an asteroid. You can confirm the location of the asteroid with the available sky maps and the coordinates of the asteroids from the internet, which can be matched.”

Some people were happy to follow the journey of the asteroid on NASA’s website too.

Meanwhile, many universities in the UAE will be using this asteroid as an example to delve deeper into understanding space sciences and comprehending celestial objects.


Sarath Raj, project director - Amity Dubai Satellite Ground Station and AmiSat, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Amity University Dubai, said, “as an aerospace engineering professor, I'd like to incorporate the 7482(1994) PC1 asteroid’s Yarkovsky effect (is a force acting on a rotating body in space) to my astrodynamics classes. This has a tiny effect on the asteroid's motion over a short period of time but can drastically alter its route over decades. Also, the impact probabilities of the asteroid is a research area we are looking into, and we will definitely explore the same for 7482(1994) PC1 asteroid. We would do an asteroid belt study using various softwares that will help us to understand the composition of the asteroid belt in a better manner.”

He adds, “Students of Aerospace Engineering at our University have also received recognition from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for their asteroid discovery. The IAU is responsible for assigning designations and official names to space bodies.”

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