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6 asteroids will buzz Earth during a 2-year period and Scientists kooky



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Fasten your seat belts, Earthman – at the end of 2020, the offer's an incredible boom close asteroid spans, and no one will be of threat to life on Earth.

Six relatively large asteroid flyby will occur over a period of two years, beginning in June 2027 In his speech at International Academy of Aeronautics Conference planetary protection Today (April 30) in College Park, Maryland, Lance Benner, a radar specialist in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA in California, scientists went through the scientific possibilities offered by fly-series.

"Six of asteroids that are going to come together to begin in the summer of 2027," said Benner. "And then after that, it will punch, kick, bang – not just bang, bang, bang, but there will be a number of them are in a very short time, and he must make a very interesting two years as a & # 39; objects form close approaches".

None of these asteroids sun along the paths that cross Earth's orbit.

related: As the 2017 asteroid will fly in 2017. NASA helps protect the Earth

But they come close enough that the scientists should be able to get a good look at them, Benner said. (In fact, the three are visible in binoculars, and one of them, named Apophis, will be visible to the naked eye.)

The largest asteroid from the party will swing first. Called 1990 MU, it is 1.7 miles (2.8 km) in width. Two asteroids in the series will be closer to Earth than the Moon's orbit. during close approaches from all six space rocks, scientists can gather detailed radar images of asteroids that will allow researchers a good sense of the shape and rotation rate of about & # 39 objects.

In some cases, scientists are studying these on & # 39; facilities for the third time, giving them enough data to start to analyze the smallest changes in speed that occurs when sunlight heats unevenly asteroid.

And because the scientists are aware of the bonanza that far ahead, the spacecraft can get in on the fun. Current mission, NASA OSIRIS-REX and Japan Hayabusa 2We showed that the car is now capable of close encounters of space rocks. Future such missions can potentially detect small changes in the asteroid's surface caused by the gravity pull of the Earth on the rock during its flyby.

A similar approach will come at a steady clip or twice a year, starting in 2027, concluding with Apophis. A flock of spans could even suggest the possibility of a trajectory of spacecraft that could carry tools by several of these asteroids in the same mission, Benner said.

"I think it's going to attract considerable scientific interest – the interest of the public, potential interest from people who plan mission spacecraft," he said.

Send Meghan Bartels on mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels, Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and facebook.

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