Asteroid alert: NASA is tracking a large rock on Earth ‘approach’ in less than 24 hours

NASA’s asteroid trackers predict the object dubbed Asteroid 2018 AL12 will approach Earth on the morning of Thursday, January 12. The asteroid is flying towards our planet on a so-called “Earth close approach” trajectory.

At speeds of nearly 35,000mph (63,540km/h), the space rock will close in on Earth around 8.13am GMT (5.13am EST) tomorrow.

Asteroid AL12 is large rocky body racing around the inner circles of the solar system.

Astronomers have called it a near-Earth object (NEO), meaning it can come astronomically close to our homeworld.

The European Space Agency (ESA) identifies NEOs as any comet or asteroid “whose orbits come close to that of Earth’s”.

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ESA said: “NEOs could potentially hit our planet and, depending on their size, produce considerable damage.

“While the chance of a large object hitting Earth is very small, it would produce a great deal of destruction.

“NEOs thus merit active detection and tracking efforts.”

Asteroid AL12 is believed to be big enough to punch through Earth’s atmosphere without disintegrating in the process.

NASA’s trackers place the space rock at a diameter of 95ft to 213ft (29m to 65m).

An impactor this big could be compared to Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle crashing into Earth.

NEOs could potentially hit our planet

European Space Agency (ESA)

Even at the lower end of the estimate, the space rock is comparable in length about three London doubledecker buses.

According to NASA, any object smaller than about 82ft (25m) across will violently crumble apart before reaching the ground.

NASA said: “If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25m but smaller than one kilometre – a little more than half-a-mile – were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.”

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Asteroid AL12 is flying towards our planet at breakneck speeds of about 17.65km per second or 39,481mph (63,540km/h).

But the good news is NASA does not expect the space rock to come crashing into our planet any time soon.

Tomorrow, AL12 will approach Earth from a distance of about 0.04660 astronomical units.

A single astronomical unit is the distance between our planet and the Sun, or about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).

Asteroid AL12 will slash this down to just 4.3 million miles (6.97 million km).

In other words, the asteroid will narrowly miss the planet by nearly 19 times as far as the Moon is.

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.”

After tomorrow’s flyby, the space rock will make a “close approach” of Mars on June 19, 2020.

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