American space agency NASA on Thursday observed a colossal asteroid flying past Earth at a staggering speed of 13 kilometres per second (46,800 Kilometers per hour). The space rock, labelled Asteroid 2022 UF4, made its closest approach to our planet at a distance of just 4.5 million kilometres. It measured 140 feet wide, which is roughly the size of an aeroplane.
According to sky.org, Asteroid 2022 UF4 was discovered on September 25, 2022. It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids. It makes one orbit around the Sun in 376 days, during which its maximum distance from the Sun is 213 million kilometres and its nearest distance is 92 million kilometres.
The next close approach of Asteroid 2022 UF4 to our planet will happen on October 28, 2055. As per the outlet, on that day, its distance to Earth is expected to be 8.23 million kilometres.
Meanwhile, this comes almost a month after a NASA spaceship struck an asteroid seven million miles away from our planet in a bid to deflect its orbit. NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) deliberately crashed into asteroid Dimorphos, ploughing into the rock at 22,500 kilometres per hour.
The experiment was the world's first-ever in-space test for planetary defence. It was also the first time that the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope simultaneously observed the same celestial target, as per the US space agency.
The mission was devised to determine whether a spacecraft is capable of changing the trajectory of an asteroid through sheer kinetic force, nudging it off course just enough to keep our planet out of harm's way. Now, after a successful test, if in the future a hazardous asteroid is spotted heading toward Earth, it's possible that NASA or some other space agency could send a spacecraft to ram it just as DART has done.