Published : Monday, January 29, 2018 | 3:50 PM
Asteroid 2002 AJ129 has made recent news as being a potential threat to Earth, but, while it will make a close approach to the planet, there will not be a collision.
“We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at JPL. “Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance—zero—of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or anytime over the next 100 years.”
The asteroid will make a close approach on Feb. 4 at 1:30 p.m. PST, but close in terms of space isn’t that tight a squeeze—it will be no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon (about 2.6 million miles, or 4.2 million kilometers).
The intermediate-sized (between 0.3 miles/0.5 kilometers and 0.75 miles/1.2 kilometers across) asteroid, was discovered on Jan. 15, 2002, by the former NASA-sponsored Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project at the Maui Space Surveillance Site on Haleakala, Hawaii.
AJ129′s speed at the time of closest approach will be approximately 76,000 mph (34 kilometers per second). That’s higher than the majority of near-Earth objects during an Earth flyby and is a result of the asteroid’s orbit, which approaches very close to the Sun—11 million miles (18 million kilometers).
Although it has been categorized as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), there is no threat to Earth in the foreseeable future.