On Thursday, Earth will be visited by a massive asteroid with a width that could be as great as double the height of the Empire State Building, but it won’t be alone and its companion is even more tremendous in size.
The asteroid 418135 (2008 AG33) with an estimated size of between around 1,150 and 2,560 feet will speed past Earth at 23,264 miles per hour on Thursday. But, just a few days after this, another asteroid, potentially even larger will also pass our planet.
This asteroid, designated 467460 (2006 JF42) which will make its closest approach on May 9, 2022, has an estimated size of between 1,247 and 2,822 feet. That means that potentially it could be as wide as two and a half Empire State Buildings.
This second asteroid won’t just potentially top 418135 (2008 AG33) in size, however. It will also whip past our planet more rapidly, traveling at around 25.277 mph. To put that velocity into perspective, it is twelve and a half times faster than a bullet fired by a rifle, 17 times as fast as a jet fighter, and 1,000 times as fast as Usain Bolt.
There is one category in which 418135 (2008 AG33) has 467460 (2006 JF42) beaten. The April 28 visit to our region of the solar system will see this asteroid come within about two million miles of Earth. During its visit in May, 467460 (2006 JF42) will remain around 3.5 million miles from our planet.
Using NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology’s Small-Body Database Lookup it is possible to track where these objects are in relation to Earth.
This image taken from the Small-Body Database Lookup, shows where 418135 (2008 AG33) is in relation to earth at the time of writing.
Also using the Small-Body Database Lookup it’s possible to see 467460 (2006 JF42) in relation to Earth on Monday, April 25.
Winding forward on the Small-Body Database Lookup we can see where the asteroids have moved to as of May 9, with 467460 (2006 JF42) now closest to Earth (left) and 418135 (2008 AG33) (right) having moved away.
It won’t be long before both of these space rocks pay a return visit to our sector of space and to Earth in particular.
Asteroid 418135 (2008 AG33), which was first discovered in 2008, hence that number in its name, is estimated to have last paid a close visit to Earth on March 1, 2015. It will return to Earth on May 25, 2029, following which 418135 (2008 AG33) won’t return to Earth’s vicinity until February 9, 2045.
Asteroid 467460 (2006 JF42) will be back sooner than this, returning to Earth on May 11, 2023. Making a return visit roughly once a year with the occasional four-year break, 467460 (2006 JF42) will come remarkably close to Earth on May 4, 2159, passing within just 686,013 miles of our planet.