An asteroid as big as the San Francisco bridge is set to whizz past Earth after Valentine’s Day

An asteroid as big as the San Francisco bridge is set to whizz past Earth after Valentine’s Day
Within hours of Valentines Day coming to a close, Asteroid 2020 PZ39 is going to whizz past Earth.Pickpik

  • A few hours after Valentine’s Day comes to an end, an asteroid as big as the Golden Gate Bridge is set to fly past Earth.
  • Asteroid 2020 PZ 39 will be flying at 54,684 kilometres an hour.
  • The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) does not believe the asteroid will crash into the planet.
One of the biggest asteroids of the year is set to fly by the Earth a day after Valentine’s. More than half-a-kilometre wide, Asteroid 2020 PZ39 is as big as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco — and twice as wide Lodha The Park, the tallest building in India.

While it seems like a doomsday revelation, there’s only a small chance that the asteroid will actually hit Earth. According to the Center of Near Object Studies ( CNEOS), the asteroid should peacefully pass by at a distance of 2.2 billion kilometres.

It is classified as a potentially hazardous object, flying at 54,684 kilometres an hour, but if there was any chance of a collision with the planet — CNEOS would have issued an alert.

Why do people worry about asteroids?
It’s not unnatural for people to worry about asteroids. Movies like Deep Impact, Armageddon and even the animated The Good Dinosaur are stoked anxieties about what could happen if an asteroid were to actually hit Earth.

The last time any space rock managed to crash to Earth — and not burn up on entry — was in 2013 in the case of Chelyabinsk meteor. The resulting impact damaged 500 square kilometres, destroyed 7,200 buildings and injured over 1,400 people.

Scientists are concerned about an extinction-level asteroid hitting the planet. According to archaeologists, there was a collision around 66 million years ago between Earth and a space object about 10 kilometres wide. It produced the Chicxulub crater and is widely believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

Asteroids are stronger than we think they are
Even though the chance of collision is marginal in the near future, most experts believe it’s only a matter of time before another extinction-level threat from space has a chance wipes out humans next.

While trying to figure out how to destroy an asteroid before it hits Earth, scientists at discovered that the space rocks are stronger and harder to destroy than they previously assumed.

"We used to believe that the larger the object, the more easily it would break — because bigger objects are more likely to have flaws. Our findings, however, show that asteroids are stronger than we used to think and require more energy to be completely shattered," said Charles El Mir from Johns Hopkins University, who made the discovery.

Nonetheless, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working on asteroid mitigation strategies that include better tracking and the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to deflect any incoming objects.

See also:
The 10 biggest asteroids that pose a threat to Earth in 2020

NASA's 'Lucy' is going to travel 4 billion miles to explore seven Trojan asteroids — and an asteroid Moon

Asteroids the size of planes will fly past Earth today, within hours of each other