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'Potentially hazardous' asteroid expected to safely pass by Earth Tuesday

By
Don Johnson
This map by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows 2021 KT1 (white orbit) at its closest projected approach to the Earth (blue orbit) on Tuesday -- about 4.5 million miles. Image courtesy NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This map by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows 2021 KT1 (white orbit) at its closest projected approach to the Earth (blue orbit) on Tuesday -- about 4.5 million miles. Image courtesy NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

June 1 (UPI) -- A large asteroid is expected to pass within 4.5 million miles of the Earth on Tuesday -- a measure that's nearer than 20 times the distance between here and the moon.

The asteroid, called 2021 KT1, measures about 600 feet, which is about the size of the Seattle Space Needle, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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The asteroid is classified by NASA as a "potentially hazardous object" because it's larger than 492 feet and is expected to pass within 4.6 million miles of Earth.

Scientists say 2021 KT1 will move past Earth at 40,000 mph, but is expected to pass by safely.

Two smaller asteroids are also expected to pass close to the Earth on Tuesday. One the size of a bus (about 23 feet) will come within 181,000 miles, the JPL says. The other, about 70 feet, will pass within about 700,000 miles.

NASA projects that two other small asteroids -- both about the size of a house -- will pass on Wednesday. One will have a closer approach, about 1.9 million miles, but neither are potentially hazardous.

In April, an asteroid traveled within 12,000 miles of the Earth's surface, moving at 18,700 mph.

Asteroids are defined by NASA as rocky fragments left over from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. They generally orbit the sun, but sometimes the gravitational pull of the planets causes one to change course.

Smaller asteroids pass between Earth and the moon's orbit several times each month, according to NASA.

Out-of-this-world images from space

This composite image made from six frames shows the International Space Station, with a crew of seven aboard, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly 5 miles per second on April 23, 2021, as seen from Nottingham, Md. Aboard are: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Mark Vande Hei; Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Pyotr Dubrov; and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Joining the crew aboard station the next day were Crew-2 mission crew members: Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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