Asteroid 2002 AJ129: Will space rock hit Earth on Super Bowl Sunday? | Science | News

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Measuring up to 1.2km wide, the is nearly as big as the 1.42km sq Hyde Park in London and would cause devastation if it scored a direct hit on Earth. 

2002 AJ129 has been classed as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” (PHA) by both NASA and the International Astronomers’ Union, a body of PhD-educated astronomers.

It has been on watch list for 14 years since being discovered on January 15, 2002.

Will 2002 AJ129 hit earth on Super Bowl Sunday?

2002 AJ129 has been nicknamed the ‘Super Bowl Asteroid’ because its arrival coincides with the American Football NFL final on Sunday, February 4.

Although the flying debris is classed as a PHA, NASA says there is no need to worry about its 76,000 mph velocity as “it does not pose an actual threat for colliding with our planet for the foreseeable future”.

In a statement, NASA spokesman Paul Chodas said: “We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately.

“Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance — zero — of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or any time over the next 100 years.”

At its closest approach, 2002 AJ129 will pass no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon – that is about 2.6 million miles or 4.2 million km.

If a space rock 1km wide did hit the planet, the consequences would be devastating.

Earth could be plunged into a mini ice age, leading to plummeting precipitation levels and plant productivity, according to one scientist’s predictions.

Charles Bardeen told the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco in 2015: “These would not be pleasant times.”

2002 AJ129 follows another relatively close escape – in space terms – when AJ 2018 skimmed past Earth on January 21 at 1.1 million miles from earth.

One of the most devastating asteroids to hit earth in recent years was an 18-metre asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, injuring 1,500 people.

The Chicxulub crater, which wiped out the dinosaurs, was believed to be about 10 to 15 kilometres (6.2 to 9.3 miles) in diameter.

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