On 12 February, 2024, two near Earth objects are scheduled for a close encounter with the Earth. The asteroids bear the designations of 2024 CY1 and 2020 DK. 2024 CY1 was spotted in this year itself, measures between 3.7 and 8.3 metres across, is travelling at 14.32 kilometres per second, and will approach within 1,20,621 kilometres of the Earth, or less than 0.3 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. While not particularly large or fast, this asteroid is approaching very close to the Earth. The other asteroid, designated as 2020 DK measures between 16 and 32 metres across, is travelling at 9.86 kilometres per second, and will approach within 14,08,387 kilometres of the Earth, or less than four times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Most of the asteroids in the Solar System occupy the Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter. However, there are populations of asteroids distributed throughout the Solar System, and many of them are housed or visit the same neighbourhood around the Sun as the Earth. 2020 DK belongs to a category of asteroids known as Atens, that have orbits that are smaller than the Earth’s, but cross the orbit of the Earth. These asteroids typically visit both Earth and Venus. 2024 CY1 on the other hand, belongs to a population of asteroids known as Apollos, that have orbits larger than that of the Earth. Apollos make close approaches to both Earth and Mars.
There are no known large asteroids that are expected to strike the Earth for hundreds of years into the future. On 13 April, 2029 though, the asteroid 99942 Apophis will approach within 32,186 kilometres of the Earth. It poses no threat to humans, but theOSIRIS-APEX spacecraft will use the close approach to investigate the asteroid. Asteroids are like time capsules from the birth of the Solar System, and provide scientists with a valuable window into understanding the environmental conditions under which the Earth was formed.