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Asteroid will pass ‘close’ to Earth on Super Bowl Sunday

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, January 23, 2018 4:12 p.m
gtrasteroid012318
NASA
An asteroid will pass close to Earth Feb. 4 after slingshotting around the sun, but it poses no danger, according to NASA

An asteroid will whip past Earth just before the Philadelphia Eagles face off against the New England Patriot in Super Bowl LII, but NASA assures it won’t interrupt the game.

The asteroid, which has been given the catchy name 2002 AJ129, will make a “close approach” to Earth around 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4. However, “close” is a relative term when dealing with the vastness of space. The asteroid will get about 2.6 million miles from the planet, or 10 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

NASA created a video showing the asteroid’s expected trajectory.

“We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies 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 asteroid is somewhere between .3 miles and .75 miles long.

Its orbit slingshots it close to the sun, past Earth and back out into the solar system.

When it passes Earth, it will be travelling at about 76,000 mph, which is faster than most objects that come close to the planet, according to NASA.

NASA has called the object a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — a designation given to all sufficiently large objects that pass within about 93 million miles of Earth.

NASA’s Asteroid Watch Twitter account has been reassuring people that they have nothing to fear from 2002 AJ129.

NASA has been tracking the asteroid since 2002.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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