The asteroid known as 441987 (2010 NY65) will pass Earth tomorrow, June 24, and it is truly a giant. NASA has measured the asteroid somewhere between 140 metres and 310 metres, meaning that at the upper scale it would be more than the three times bigger than the 96 metre tall Big Ben. The space rock is travelling at a staggering 46,400 kmph and will pass by at a distance of 3.76 million kilometres (2.3 million miles) – close enough for it to be considered an NEO.
Being an NEO allows the space agency to study the history of our solar system.
NASA said 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.”
NASA also classed it as a PHA, stating: The space agency said: “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.”
However, this asteroid poses no threat to Earth.
While the chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – the devastating prospect is not impossible.