Earth is expected to get an interstellar pregame show on Super Bowl Sunday. A large asteroid is scheduled to pass by the planet just hours before the big game.
According to NASA, 2002 AJ129 is a medium-sized asteroid that’s between one-third and three-quarters of a mile across. While the giant space rock has officially been listed as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” because of its size and relative closeness to the Earth, scientists say 2002 AJ129 will still be 2.6 million miles away from the planet when it flies by.
“We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately,” NASA’s Paul Chodas said in a statement. “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.”
The Super Bowl asteroid is expected to make a “close approach” to Earth at 4:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 4, just two hours before the Eagles and Patriots kick off that night.
“At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.
According to NASA, “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids” — or PHAs — are “defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.”
Rival fans who may have been hoping for some cosmic interference to stop Philadelphia and New England from playing might be disappointed to know that 2002 AJ129 isn’t the closest near-miss in the last four months. In October, a house-sized asteroid came within 26,000 miles of the planet. NASA used that close encounter to test how well its planetary defense system would work if an asteroid were on a collision course for Earth.
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