The asteroid dubbed by NASA 2020 BB1 is closing in on Earth at about 11.37km per second or 25,433mph (40,932km/h). At this rate, NASA’s tracking systems predict BB1 will reach our homeworld by 8.36am GMT (3.36am EST) on Thursday, January 23.
NASA’s astronomers have dubbed the asteroid’s arrival an “Earth close approach”.
Asteroid BB1 is a so-called near-Earth object or NEO, meaning its orbit around the Sun comes close to our planet.
Trapped in the inner rings of the solar systems, NEOs are all comets and asteroids that orbit the Sun from a distance of no more than 1.3 astronomical units.
For comparison, Mars orbits the Sun from an average distance of about 1.5 astronomical units.
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As proven by the Chelyabinsk meteor incident in 2013, NEOs will occasionally crash into our planet.
The Chelyabinsk incident unfolded when an undetected 56.6ft-wide (20m) rock slipped into the atmosphere and exploded over Russia before reaching the ground.
The resulting airblast injured more than 1,000 people watching the bright fireball with shards of broken window glass.
According to NASA, a hundred tons small rocks and sand grain-sized orbital debris pelt the planet every single day.
Larger, car-sized asteroids are estimated to strike somewhere on the planet at least once a year.
NASA said: “Occasionally, asteroids’ orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter.
As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth
“Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet.”
Asteroid BB1 is estimated to measure somewhere in the range of 20.6ft to 45.9ft (6.3m to 14m) across.
At the upper limit of NASA’s estimate, the rock is comparable in height to the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, US.
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The good news is an asteroid this small poses no threat to anyone on the planet’s surface.
NASA claims asteroids smaller than 82ft (25m) in diameter will burn up before reaching the ground.
But as the Chelyabinsk incident proves, asteroids can still cause a lot of damage without a direct hit.
On Thursday, NASA predicts BB1 will approach our planet from a distance of 0.00659 astronomical units.
One astronomical unit measure about 93 million miles (149.6 million km) or the distance between Earth and the Sun.
In other words, Asteroid BB1 will safely shoot past Earth from a distance of about 612,578 miles (985,849km).
The distance equals about 2.56 Lunar Distances or 2.56 times as far as the Moon is from Earth.
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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