The asteroid 1994 PC1 will indeed make a passage in the Earth’s neighborhood on January 18, 2022. But almost 2 million kilometers from our planet. Nothing to worry about.
« An asteroid larger than the Corcovado will pass near Earth this month », « a giant asteroid is about to pass in front of the Earth »… Look no further for the next giant-planet-devastating asteroid, here it is! It’s called 1994 PC1, but don’t panic: it will absolutely not hit our planet in January 2022.
The object in question has been known for almost 30 years. The asteroid was discovered in August 1994, from Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. It is an Apollo asteroid (which is quite common), whose orbit is larger than that of the Earth, but which can nevertheless cross it.
A safe passage at 5 times the Earth-Moon distance
January 18, 1994 PC1 will indeed pass in the terrestrial neighborhood, but it will in no case touch our planet. According to JPL data, it will pass at a distance of 0.01325 astronomical units, or about 1.93 million kilometers. By way of comparison, an object is constantly much closer to the Earth, without posing a risk: the Moon, on average 384,400 kilometers from us. We must multiply this distance by approximately 5, to obtain the distance which will separate us from 1994 PC1 January 18.
As pointed out ScienceAlert, the estimate of the asteroid’s distance was calculated with a small margin of error (133 km). There is therefore really no risk of collision.
It is however true that 1994 PC1 is classified in the category of potentially dangerous objects (there are two types, comets and asteroids). This group consists of objects whose minimum distance from Earth’s orbit is less than 0.05 astronomical units (7,480,000 km, about 19 times the Earth-Moon distance), and whose diameter is at least 150 meters.
This is indeed the case with 1994 PC1, estimated to have a diameter of just over a kilometer (1,052 km). The following diagram represents its orbit in the solar system and its position relative to the Earth.
The interest of this passage relatively close to January 18 will be especially for professional or amateur astronomers, who will thus have an opportunity to better observe the asteroid. 1994 PC1 takes about 1 year and 7 months to circle the Sun. As it approaches January 18, it is expected to move at a speed of almost 20 kilometers per second. Its brightness will be too low to see it with the naked eye or binoculars, but if you own a telescope, you may be able to give it a try.
How to follow online its passage on January 18?
If you don’t have any equipment, finally know that it will be possible to follow the passage (without danger) of the asteroid live. thanks to the Virtual Telescope. Meeting on the project site Or on sa page YouTube D-day !
Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.
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