Asteroid warning: Space rock 3 times size of VW Beetle hurtling towards Earth for New Year (Image: GETTY)
AN ASTEROID is hurtling towards Earth for the New Year as NASA kicks off 2020 with an astronomical threat.
A space rock bigger than four African Bush Elephants – the largest of the elephants – is shooting towards Earth, with it set to arrive while 2020 is still fresh. The asteroid, which has a diameter of 13 metres, has been dubbed 2019 AE3 and it is making its way through the solar system at a staggering 8.2 kilometres per second (5MPS), or 29,520 kilometres per hour. At that speed, the asteroid would be able to make it from London to New York in around six minutes.
For reference, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet ever built, could not even reach New York from London in an hour.
Asteroid AE3 will be at its closest to Earth on January 2 when it is just 0.013 AU (astronomical unit) away from our planet.
One AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun (149,598,000 km), so AE3 will be just 19,44,772 kilometres from Earth.
While this may seem like a sizeable distance, it is close enough for NASA to sit up and take notice.
The US-based space agency have classed 2019 AE3 as a Near Earth Object (NEO) and allow the space agency to study the history of our solar system.
NASA set on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”
While this specific asteroid poses no threat to Earth, NASA experts have warned there is a “100 percent” chance an asteroid will hit our world.
Greg Leonard, a senior research specialist at Catalina Sky Survey – a NASA funded project supported by the Near Earth Object Observation Program (NEOO) – told Bryan Walsh for the latter’s new book End Times: “I know the chances of me dying in an asteroid impact is less than dying from a lightning strike.
“But I also know that if we do nothing, sooner or later, there’s a one hundred percent chance that one will get us. So I feel privileged to be doing something.”
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© Pixabay / Thomas Breher
NASA is currently tracking three near-Earth objects (NEOs) due to fly past the Earth on November 20. Worryingly, two of the three were only spotted this past weekend, once again raising tensions over planetary defense.
The first of Wednesday’s cosmic flybys and the largest, measuring 157.5ft to 360.8ft (48 to 110 meters) across, will be asteroid 2019 UK6, which will speed past at approximately 6.20am GMT (1.20am EDT). It is 2019 UK6 we had most prior warning about, as it was first observed on October 24.
NEO 2019 UK6 is an Amor asteroid, which that goes around the Sun and the Earth, occasionally, but very rarely, crossing Earth’s path. Apollo asteroids, on the other hand, intersect with Earth’s orbit as the planet travels around the Sun.
The second of the Wednesday’s flybys will be 2019 WF, first spotted by NASA’s asteroid hunters just two days ago on November 17. Estimated to be about 24 meters wide, it will make its closest Earth approach at roughly twice the distance to the moon, so no danger of an extinction level event there anyway.
Last up will be 2019 WE, also spotted at the last second on November 17. This asteroid will sail past our planet at a distance of about 1.3 million kilometers away.
According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), all three will have what are dubbed “near-Earth approaches,” but thankfully none are believed to pose any threat.
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Illustration: © urikyo33 from Pixabay
The seemingly never-ending stream of Earth-bound space rocks continues, as an Apollo-class asteroid measuring between 918ft and 2,034ft in diameter (280m-620m) is due to skim past our planet on November 21.
Affectionately dubbed ‘481394 (2006 SF6),’ the asteroid is traveling at a speed of roughly 17,780mph (27,360kph) and will make what NASA dubs a ‘close approach’ shortly after midnight (GMT) in mid-November at a distance of 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers) away, or approximately eleven times as far away as the Moon.
The Apollo-class space rock is estimated to measure up to twice the size of the Eiffel Tower (or half the size of Ben Nevis for Brexiteers).
While the risk of impact is low, there is a small chance the Yarkovsky effect, in which sunlight can steer asteroids off their current trajectory, may send the asteroid even closer.
Apollo asteroids are Earth-crossing asteroids initially discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s that constitute a little over 10,000 of NASA’s 19,000 known ‘near-Earth objects’ (NEOs), which orbit the Sun within 18,600,000 miles of our planet.
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Earth is soon set for another close shave with a hurtling space rock as an 111-foot asteroid is poised to skim past our planet on its closest approach for 115 years.
First spotted by astronomers only earlier this week, the asteroid dubbed 2019 TA7 is set to fly by Earth at a speed of over 22,500 miles per hour at 6:53pm ET on Monday, data from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reveals.
The new celestial visitor is estimated to measure up to 111 feet in diameter and is among a group of recently discovered asteroids that have been traveling close to Earth in recent days.
The flying rock orbits the Sun once every 240 days and passes by Earth about once a year. However, Monday’s approach will be our closest encounter with it in 115 years when it passes by at a distance of about 930,000 miles, more than 50 times closer to Earth than our nearest neighbor, Mercury.
Experts have repeatedly warned that Earth has no defense against an asteroid smashing into its surface. In fact the United Nations created World Asteroid Day in a bid to raise awareness about the possibility.
The UN is particularly worried about undetected asteroids, similar to 2019 TA7, as a major concern with hazardous space objects is that we are not good at detecting them and some of the most dangerous ones have caught us by surprise.
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