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NASA NEOWISE Detects Two Space Rocks Including a Comet or Asteroid Hurtling Towards Earth

Jan 06, 2017 12:09 PM EST
NASA Holds News Conference On Near-Earth Asteroid Findings
NASA's comet-hunting mission detected two space rocks near Earth that will be visible in early 2017.
(Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images)

NASA revealed that a space rock is detected hurtling towards the planet. It is unclear, however, if it is an asteroid or a comet. Meanwhile, a comet will pass by the Earth that will be visible to the public using a binocular.

The object called 2016 WF9 was detected by NASA NEOWISE last November. This celestial object follows an orbit that takes it into a tour of the solar system. It will come near Earth before going outwards to space. It passes through the asteroid belt, the Sun, Mars and the Earth in a span of 4.9 years. What makes the object interesting is that its origin still remains questionable. Experts believe that it could have been a comet but is now considered as a cross between the two types of space rocks, according to a report.

The mission is using the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) to detect objects in space. During the course of its mission, it managed to identify about 34,000 asteroids. It also conducted a survey of the entire sky in 2010, according to a NEOWISE press release.

The object is expected to pass through on Feb. 25 at about 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) from the planet. In addition to that, NEOWISE also spotted another object distinctively identified as a comet. It is called C/2016 U1 NEOWISE and it "has a good chance of becoming visible through a good pair of binoculars, although we can't be sure because a comet's brightness is notoriously unpredictable," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said in a press release.

The object will be visible during the first week of 2017. It is expected to enter Mercury's orbit before swinging back outside the Solar System. The object will be visible on Earth but is not considered a threat.

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