UAE: Asteroid bigger than Burj Khalifa to whiz past Earth; can residents see rare phenomenon?

The asteroid has been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid due to its large size


Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 5:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 13 Jan 2022, 10:45 PM

A giant asteroid, comparable in size to Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building, is set to whiz past Earth on January 18.

The asteroid has been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to its large size and flyby closeness to Earth. Its estimated size is about 3,280 feet, which is approximately 600 feet bigger than Dubai's Burj Khalifa and twice the height of New York City's Empire State Building.

But the asteroid's size isn't a cause for concern. Hasan Al Hariri, the CEO of Dubai Astronomy Group, said it will pass Earth safely.

"The asteroid will fly past and go even beyond the moon. It's not going to collide with our planet," he said. "There are more than 500 such asteroids. These are also called NEOs or Nearth-Earth Objects or Hazardous Bodies."

Nasa also launched a spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart), which will deflect asteroids and use technology to remove or change the course of asteroids so they don't collide with Earth.

"There are different types of asteroids, and we have to create different methods to defend Earth against potential asteroids or comet hazards," Al Hariri said.

The speeding asteroid will pass 1.93 million kilometres from Earth, or about five times the distance between Earth and Moon.

"Nasa's programmes of planetary defence systems monitor all such bodies that can cause a threat to Earth, either in the short or long-term," Al Hariri said. "Different space agencies also monitor the sky and there are many surveys held around the year and around the world to identify such objects that could pose a threat to us. Additionally, advanced telescopes are being manufactured that can capture up to even one million objects coming from space."

No asteroid will come as close to Earth as this one for the next 200 years. But because it will pass so far from Earth, chances of seeing the asteroid without a telescope are slim.


Sarath Raj, project director - Amity Dubai Satellite Ground Station and AmiSat, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Amity University Dubai, said: "The asteroid has a well-defined rotation period of 2.5999 hours, with a brightness amplitude of 0.29 magnitude and eccentricity of 0.3297. The asteroid will be travelling at a speed of 43,754 miles per hour or at 19.56 kilometres per second relative to Earth."

Since the asteroid will shine at a magnitude of around 10, Raj said skygazers using a backyard telescope that's six inches or larger can observe the asteroid.

Others interested in seeing the asteroid can watch it live on on January 18 at 10pm UAE time.

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