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.
Asteroid warning: Space rock 3 times size of VW Beetle hurtling towards Earth for New Year
The asteroid is bigger than four African Bush Elephants – the largest of the elephants
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.
The hunt for asteroids
“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.”