Hanging out beyond the moon, this weekend? Watch out!


A couple of these are wandering by, this weekend [credit ESA]

Two skyscraper-size asteroids are zooming toward Earth this weekend, with one making its closest approach on Friday (July 29) and the second whizzing by on Saturday (July 30).

The first asteroid, dubbed 2016 CZ31, will fly by around 7 p.m. ET (23:00 GMT) on Friday, whizzing at an estimated 34,560 mph (55,618 km/h, according to NASA.

Astronomers estimate that the asteroid measures about 400 feet (122 meters) across at its widest point, making it about as wide as a 40-story building is tall. The asteroid will safely miss our planet…According to NASA, this space rock makes close approaches to Earth every few years, with the next one scheduled for January 2028.

On Saturday, a second, ever larger asteroid will skim past our planet, albeit at a greater distance from Earth. That asteroid, named 2013 CU83, measures approximately 600 feet (183 m) across at its widest visible point, and will pass by about 4,320,000 miles (6,960,000 km) from Earth, or about 18 times the average distance between Earth and the moon…

…Space agencies take planetary defense very seriously. In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will slam directly into the 525-foot-wide (160 m) asteroid Dimorphos in autumn 2022. The collision won’t destroy the asteroid, but it may change the space rock’s orbital path slightly, Live Science previously reported. The mission will help test the viability of asteroid deflection, should some future asteroid pose an imminent danger to our planet.

Just in case you were worried. Or needed something more than politics to worry about.

Brief history of extinctions on Earth

“Our planet Earth has extinguished large portions of its inhabitants several times since the dawn of animals. And if science tells us anything, it will surely try to kill us all again. Working in the 19th century, paleontology pioneer Georges Cuvier saw dramatic turnovers of life in the fossil record and likened them to the French Revolution, then still fresh in his memory.

Today, we refer to such events as “mass extinctions,” incidents in which many species of animals and plants died out in a geological instant. They are so profound and have such global reach that geological time itself is sliced up into periods—Permian, Triassic, Cretaceous—that are often defined by these mass extinctions.

RTFA and “enjoy” or at least reflect upon the mortality of this widespread but fragile species.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz