Those of us writhing in these uncomfortable mortal coils will be sad to know that yet another asteroid will pass by Earth next month, and there’s nothing we can do to convince it otherwise.
The object in question, called 2002 AJ129, will miss Earth by about 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers). In its closest approach to Earth, the asteroid will zoom by at roughly 76,000 miles per hour (34 kilometers per second). Although 2002 AJ129 is indeed thicc — greater in diameter than even the tallest building on Earth — it poses no risk to humanity.
“We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, says in a statement. “Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance — zero — of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or any time over the next 100 years.”
Though there’s absolutely no chance that 2002 AJ129 will crash into our planet, that hasn’t stopped several media outlets from fanning the flames of fear:
While it’s true that 2002 AJ129 is technically considered a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), this is a merely a label to describe its distance from Earth. It doesn’t mean the asteroid is capable of carrying out any real damage to our planet.
“Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” NASA’s JPL writes. “Specifically, all asteroids with an Earth Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less and an absolute magnitude (H) of 22.0 or less are considered PHAs.”
As much as we’d all like an asteroid to wallop us squarely in the face, the reality is, that’s just not going to happen. It’s easier if you start accepting it now.