An asteroid roughly twice the size of the Empire State building will pass within 1.2 million miles of the Earth today while traveling at a speed of 47,344 mph at about 4:51 p.m. EST, according to the NASA Center for Near Earth Objects.
This passing will mark the closest the object, asteroid 7482, will come to the Earth in the next 200 years, according to calculations of its orbit. The asteroid, which was discovered by Robert McNaught in 1994, is about 3,451 feet wide, and while it will pass by the Earth at a distance that is considered close for space, it poses no threat to the planet.
NASA recently launched a probe to test whether it would be feasible to push a small celestial body out of its course, just in case a future impact threatens the planet.
"For the first time, humanity will change the motion of a natural celestial body in space,” Tom Statler, the mission program scientist at NASA Headquarters, told CBS News last November.
"You just don't want to blow it up, because that doesn't change the direction of all the material," added Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer at NASA. "It's still coming at you, it's just buckshot instead of a rifle ball."
Johnson added, "What you want to do is just change the speed at which this is all moving by just a bit. Over time, that will change the position of the asteroid and its orbit."
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