On May 20, astronomers at the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System at the University of Hawaii stated that they discovered the first known Jupiter Trojan asteroid that appears to have a tail like a comet.
An unusual asteroid
The asteroid 2019 LD2 was first spotted on June 2019 by astronomers. It falls into the Jupiter Trojan asteroids category and it is a part of a swarm that regularly orbits the sun ahead of Jupiter. The asteroid is like a guard along Jupiter's path but it guards it in advance. The thing is, the asteroid 2019 LD2 is not like the other Jupiter Trojan asteroids.
In the ATLAS images of the asteroid, there are red lines that highlights the 2019 LD2. The stars were removed in the images, and that was when the tail of the asteroid became visible.
Normally, the difference between icy comets and asteroids are clear, but NASA describes asteroids as rocky fragments that are left over from the beginning of the solar system and comets are described as cosmic snowballs of dust and gas. Although the asteroid and comet crossover is unusual, it is not unheard of. In 2019, scientists observed asteroid 6478 Gault's dust tail.
The asteroid 2019 LD2 was out of view for a year and reappeared in April 2020. According to researchers, Jupiter Trojan comets were captured billions of years ago in their orbital paths. This means the 2019 LD2 is a newcomer to the swarm or it could have smacked into something.
Asteroid headed for Earth
Meanwhile, the asteroid, 1997 BQ is headed for Earth on May 21, 2020. The asteroid was first seen by astronomers in 1997, hence the name. The 1997 BQ is massive that astronomers can track it, even after years down the road. The asteroid's Sun-centric orbit was refined and mapped by astronomers. Although astronomers say that the asteroid is potentially hazardous, it is not as frightening of a label.
Astronomers estimate the size of the asteroid and it is said to be around a mile wide, it could cause significant damage if it were to strike the Earth. If it came down over an area that is populated, it can cause a very high casualty rate, and if it splashed down in the ocean, it would cause a lot of problems such as massive waves and atmospheric disturbances.
The good news is that the asteroid is not something that people need to worry about, at least for now. The next time that is will pass by the planet will be in 2050, and it will still be keeping its distance.
What will the damage be if an asteroid hits Earth?
The chances of an asteroid hitting Earth is small. Around 90% of the near-Earth asteroids are a half-mile wide and none of them has a significant chance of hitting the planet, according to NASA. However, there could still be some unknown asteroids out there.
If it does hit Earth, it would strike the planet's surface at 30,000 mph. An asteroid that has that speed and energy could be equal to a 1 million megaton bomb. It can wipe out most of life on Earth.