The asteroid is barreling towards us on a path dubbed by astronomers a “close approach”. The space rock is being monitored by NASA’s automated systems at the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) in California.
Should the rock veer off-course and into our planet, the systems will alert NASA of the imminent danger.
The asteroid in question is a near-Earth object (NEO) named Asteroid 2018 GY.
NASA’s calculations show the rock will appear closest to Earth on Thursday, March 12, at about 1.29pm GMT.
NASA’s tracking systems have been monitoring the space rock since April 8, 2018.
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The space agency has since observed the asteroid 15 times to determine its size, speed and trajectory.
NASA said: “Near-Earth Objects 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.
“Composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system while most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.”
Although there is no known asteroid or comet destined to strike our planet in the foreseeable future, many of these space rocks come hazardously close to Earth.
And if an NEO comes close enough and it measures more than 460ft (140m) across, astronomers might consider it to be “potentially hazardous”.
Most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system
NASA 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 and an absolute magnitude (H) of 22.0 or less are considered PHAs.”
Asteroid GY is estimated to measure in the range of 95ft to 213ft (29m to 65m) across.
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At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is taller than Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World, Florida.
At the lower end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is still formidable and is comparable in width to the length of a cricket pitch.
NASA believes any asteroid bigger than 82ft (25m) across will not disintegrate when flying through the atmosphere.
The asteroid is also flying towards us at speeds of about 9.51km per second or 21,273mph (34,236kmh).
But will the asteroid come flying into our planet tomorrow?
Even during its closest approach, the asteroid is expected to miss us by about 0.01594 astronomical units or 1.48 million miles (2.38 million miles).
One astronomical unit measures about 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance from Earth to the Sun.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”
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