Asteroid alert: NASA tracks a 557FT asteroid on Earth ‘close approach’ – But will it hit?

NASA’s trackers estimate the asteroid measures up to 557m (170m) across, making it a formidable object. The space rock is hurtling towards our planet on an orbit that has been dubbed a “close approach” trajectory.

Officially known as Asteroid 2020 BR1, the rock will approach Earth on Sunday, February 23.

NASA’s trackers at the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) are tracking the approach.

The asteroid is racing towards us at speeds of about 15.07km per second or 33,710mph (54,252kmh).

At this rate, the asteroid will close-in on our home planet around 2.55pm GMT (9.55am EST) on Sunday.

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Asteroid BR1 is a fast-moving NEO or near-Earth object crossing Earth’s orbit of the Sun.

The space rock was first spotted by NASA in the solar system on January 17, and the space agency has tracked the asteroid more than 30 times since.

The observations have allowed NASA to determine the rock’s size, speed and trajectory.

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.

“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.

“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.”

As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth

NASA

NEOs can come dangerously close to our planet and sometimes strike without warning.

If an asteroid measuring more than 460ft (140m) across comes too close to our planet for comfort, astronomers will call it “potentially hazardous”.

Asteroid BR1 is estimated to measure somewhere in the range of (75m to 170m) in diameter

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At the upper end of the estimate, the space rock is about as tall St Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Washington Monument in the US.

At the lower end of the estimate, the asteroid is comparable to about nine London double-decker buses lined up in a row.

But just how closes does NASA expect the rock to approach Earth this weekend?

At its closest, the asteroid will visit us from a distance of about 0.03945 astronomical units.

One astronomical unit measures is the distance between Earth and the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).

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

So on Sunday, the asteroid will safely miss us by about 3.66 million miles (5.9 million km).

In other words, the rock will be more than 15 times as far as the Moon is.

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