NASA’s asteroid trackers have dubbed the space rock Asteroid 2019 XW after it’s discovery last week. The asteroid was found hurtling towards Earth on a “close approach” trajectory on December 3, 2019. NASA now predicts Asteroid XW will come scraping past Earth in the wee morning hours of Tuesday, December 10.
What do we know about Asteroid 2019 XW?
The asteroid hurtling towards our planet is a so-called Near-Earth Object or NEO.
NEOs are all comets and asteroids orbiting the Sun from distances that bring them close to Earth.
NASA keeps a watchful eye on these NEOs because they frequently strike our planet.
A car-sized asteroid is believed to hit Earth once a year on average.
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Asteroid XW is an Apollo-type rock, meaning it crosses Earth’s orbit on a trajectory similar to Asteroid 1862 Apollo.
NASA estimates the rock measures somewhere in the range of 144ft to 324ft (44m to 99m) in diameter.
At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is taller than Big Ben’s clocktower at Westminster Palace in London.
The asteroid is also taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York, US, and is as long as a football field.
At the lower end of NASA’s size estimate, the asteroid is comparable in height to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
NASA’s orbital observations further reveal the rock is flying towards an Earth approach around 3.35am GMT tomorrow.
Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth
When this happens, Asteroid XW will reach incredible speeds of around 15.59km per second or 34,873mph (56,124km/h).
At such speeds, the asteroid is twice as fast as NASA’s Space Shuttle and 20 times faster than an F-16 fighter jet.
NASA said: “Knowing the size, shape, mass, composition and structure of these objects helps determine the best way to divert one, should it have an Earth-threatening path.”
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Will the Asteroid WX hit the Earth tomorrow?
Despite making a “close approach” to Earth, NASA does not expect WX to hit Earth anytime soon.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects 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.”
At its closest, the space rock will miss Earth by a margin of 0.02764 astronomical units.
One astronomical unit describes the distance between Earth and the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
In other words, the space rock will miss Earth by about 2.5 million miles or 4.1 million km.
The distance is equal to nearly 11 times as far as the Moon is.
After the flyby, the asteroid will next approach the planet Venus in August 2021.
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