A skyscraper-sized asteroid is wandering toward Earth
It might be as big as a 40-story office building.
The size of a Near-Earth Object is something that scientists always keep an eye on. The larger the object, the larger the threat. Next month, another NEO will whiz by our planet, but, thankfully, experts say there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the asteroid known as 2022 GU6.
Asteroid 2022 GU6 size and closest approach to Earth
2022 GU6 is classified as an Apollo asteroid, with a diameter approximately between 60m and 150m. (On the larger side, that’s about as tall as the Fuller building, a 40-story skyscraper in New York City.)
Asteroid 2022 GU6 will be at its closest point to Earth on June 13th, 2022, before continuing on its orbit back towards Mars and the asteroid belt. There is little threat, with this asteroid only coming 0.008473 AU — or 1,267,536 Kilometers. For reference, the moon is 384,400 Kilometers from Earth. If the math is correct, that means the asteroid will pass at 3.3 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Does 2022 GU have the potential to hit the Earth?
Believed to be a threat early this year, further observation and tracking from astronomers revealed that 2022 GU6 poses no danger to our planet. Whenever an asteroid wanders out of the asteroid belt and towards Earth, it has the potential to cause concern. Near-Earth Asteroids are objects to keep an eye on but are rarely a threat.
Dr. Melissa Brucker from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona confirms to Inverse that there is no risk of impact.
“2022 GU6 was removed from JPL’s list of possible impactors on April 26, 2022 after the previously predicted potential impact became inconsistent with orbit recalculations due to the addition of new observations,” she says.
Brucker adds that while we may refer to asteroids like this one as “near Earth,” it’s all relative. “Calling this class of objects near-Earth asteroids can seem misleading because NEAs are not necessarily ‘near Earth’ in the colloquial sense. They are ‘near Earth’ compared to asteroids in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.”
When will 2022 GU6 return to Earth?
Luckily, this asteroid is making a last-in-a-lifetime encounter. According to predictions, 2022 GU6 did come within 0.08 AU back in May of 2015. Many times, asteroids can be undetected until later dates. June will be the closest GU6 will come to Earth in this century.
Will Asteroid 2022 GU6 be visible from Earth?
On June 12, GU6 will be 16.3 magnitude (the brightest magnitude it will reach). The asteroid is likely not going to be visible in commercial telescopes, and definitely not binoculars. If visible at all in 12+ inch telescopes — assuming it reaches 16.3 magnitude — it would be very faint and hard to detect. For comparison, an object as bright as Venus has a magnitude of around -4.6 at its brightest. The lower the number, the brighter, therefore more visible an object is to the human eye. The limit of what the unaided human eye can detect is around +7 magnitude.
Asteroid 2022 GU6 will be visible only through long-exposure photography. There is also the fact that this asteroid is moving very quickly in its orbit (18,770 miles per hour). 2022 GU6 will be in the constellation Cepheus in the early AM hours on June 12th, when it is at its brightest. The next morning, on June 13th, it will have moved over to the left of Pegasus.
If you are fortunate enough to pick up this asteroid in long exposure photography, you can rest assured that it is safely flying past us. There are always scientists monitoring the cosmos for potential threats — thankfully 2022 GU6 is not one of them.