The asteroid 2022 RM4 has an estimated diameter of about 400 meters and will reach its minimum distance from Earth on 1 November. It is speeding at over 80,000 km/h.
On the evening of Tuesday, November 1, a giant asteroid classified as potentially dangerous by NASA will fly over the Earth, fortunately without any risk of impact. The “space rock”, called 2022 RM4, was discovered last September 22 by astronomers from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1), a project led by the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and other US research centers. It is based on a network of telescopes located at the Haleakala Observatory (Maui Island) that constantly scans the sky in search of new asteroids, comets and other celestial bodies. 2022 RM4 was first intercepted while it was more than 90 million kilometers from Earth. It will make its close passage exactly at 19:27 Italian time on November 1, when it will pass at an estimated distance of 0.01536 Astronomical Units (AU), equal to about 2.3 million kilometers. It is a distance equal to six times that which separates us on average from the Moon (484 thousand kilometers), therefore perfectly safe.
The asteroid 2022 RM4 is an Apollo-class object placed on the list of potentially hazardous asteroids or PHA (acronym for potentially hazardous asteroids) due to its size and orbit. The diameter estimated by the Near-Earth Objects Coordination Center of the European Space Agency (ESA) is about 400 meters, while the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory places it between 330 and 740 meters. It is therefore a huge object, taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. All objects with a diameter greater than 150 meters and which “cross” the Earth’s orbit at a distance of less than 7.5 million kilometers are classified as potentially dangerous, in light of the serious damage they could cause in the event of an impact.
In the event that such an object were to crash into Earth we would not risk a mass extinction like the one unleashed by Chicxulub, the 10-14 kilometer asteroid that 66 million years ago caused the extinction of non-avian and 75-year-old dinosaurs. percent of animal and plant species, but a regional or even national catastrophe. In fact, it is estimated that an asteroid of only 100 meters would be able to obliterate a metropolis like New York, causing millions of deaths. One of 400 meters or more would release a colossal energy capable of devastating a very large area. Fortunately 2022 RM4 does not present a threat to Earth at the moment. The close flyby of November 1st will be just a precious opportunity to observe and study it.
The asteroid has already been immortalized by the Virtual Telescope Project, which captured a snapshot on October 26 while it was 12.5 million kilometers from us.
The asteroid can also be admired by amateur amateurs through a telescope with a diameter of about twenty centimeters.
The celestial body is currently darting at an impressive speed of 23.5 kilometers per second, equal to 84,600 kilometers per hour. The calculated speed is slower than that at which NASA’s DART probe collided with the asteroid Dimorphos at the end of September, in the first planetary defense mission in history designed precisely to demonstrate whether it is possible to deflect dangerous celestial objects en route to the Land. The impact was successful and the orbit of the celestial body was diverted. Scientists underline that the threat of NEOs (Near Earth Objects such as asteroids and comets) is concrete and it is not a question of if, but of when, therefore it will be necessary to be prepared in time of need.