The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 AR2, will make a so-called “Earth Close Approach”. Asteroid trajectory calculations predict the space rock will reach its closest distance to Earth tomorrow afternoon. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) expects Asteroid AR2 will swing by around 2.28pm on Sunday, January 13. The unexpected flyby comes just 10 days after the barreling space rock was first detected by NASA’s radars on January 3.
And during tomorrow’s flyby, the asteroid is estimated to dash past the Earth at breakneck speeds of more than 10,780mph (4.82km per second).
Thankfully NASA does not expect the space rock to slam into the Earth anytime soon.
Instead, the asteroid will miss the Earth by nearly two million miles.
But the asteroid is large enough and will swing by close enough for NASA to pay close attention to its journey around the solar system.
The JPL estimates Asteroid AR2 measures somewhere in the range of 121.4ft and 268ft (37m and 82m) in diameter.
An asteroid this big is about 10-times longer than a red London double-decker bus and is 1.45-times taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Even at the smaller end of the estimate, the asteroid is nine-times longer than a Volkswagen Beatle car.
And asteroids much smaller than AR2 have been known to cause chaos and destruction when striking the Earth.
The most recent example is the 2013 Chelyabinsk Meteor, which erupted over Chelyabinsk oblast in Russia six years ago.
The 65.6ft-wide (20m) meteor remained undetected until it entered Earth’s atmosphere and injured more than 1,5000 people when it blew up windows in a wide radius.
NASA dubbed the terrifying incident a “cosmic wake-up call” for the dangers lurking in deep space.
The US space agency said: “The explosion released more than 30 times the energy from the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.”
Tomorrow, Asteroid AR2 will miss the Earth by about 0.01954 astronomical units (au) or 1.8 million miles (2.92 million km).
This is roughly the equivalent of 7.60-times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Because of the distances in question, NASA has called Asteroid AR2 a “Near-Earth Object”.
NEOs are described as any asteroid or comet which pass the Sun within 1.3 astronomical units or 120.8 million miles (194.4 million km).
NASA said: “Near-Earth Objects (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.”
Daily Express :: Science Feed