The NASA-tracked asteroid is following a trajectory that will bring it astronomically close to our planet on Friday (January 31). NASA’s tracking systems have dubbed the space rock 2020 BR8 and called it a near-Earth object or (NEO).
Astronomers first spotted the rocky body hurtling through the system on January 24 but NASA already has a fairly good idea of its size, speed and direction.
The asteroid is flying towards for a so-called “Earth close approach”, in the wee morning hours on Friday.
Travelling at speeds of about 29.3km per second or 65,542mph (105,480km/h), the rock will approach around 1.12am GMT tomorrow.
NASA said: “These objects orbit the Sun just like the planets, as they have been doing for billions of years, but small effects such as gravitational nudges from the planets can jostle the orbits, making them gradually shift over million-year timescales or abruptly reposition if there is a close planetary encounter.
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“Over time, their orbits may cross Earth’s path around the Sun.
“During the millennia when an asteroid is in an Earth-crossing orbit, it is possible the asteroid and Earth may find themselves in the same place at the same time.”
Based on NASA’s observations, Asteroid BR8 measures somewhere in the range 65.6ft to 131ft (20m to 40m) across.
Towards the upper end of the scale, the asteroid is about five times as long as a London doubledecker bus.
At the lower end of the scale, the rock is reminiscent of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor.
Nearly seven years ago, an undetected space rock entered the atmosphere and spectacularly erupted over Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast.
It’s not at all uncommon for small asteroids to pass closer to Earth than our own Moon
The asteroid’s eruption released about 10 times more energy than the US atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
More than 1,000 people who watched the bright fireball cut across the sky were injured when the asteroid exploded and blew out windows in a wide radius.
In the aftermath of the asteroid hit, NASA called it a cosmic “wake-up call” to the dangers lurking in deep space.
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Will the Asteroid BR8 hit the planet tomorrow?
The good news is NASA will not sound the alarm bells just yet because the rock is expected to safely miss Earth.
Even at its closest, BR8 will miss Earth by about 0.02472 astronomical units or 2.29 million miles (3.68 million km).
A single astronomical unit is the average distance from our planet to the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
NASA said: “You may have heard about an asteroid or comet making a ‘close approach’ to Earth.
“That happens when the object in its natural orbit about the Sun passes particularly close to Earth.
“There’s no firm rule on what counts as ‘close’, but it’s not at all uncommon for small asteroids to pass closer to Earth than our own Moon.”
An asteroid can make a close approach to Earth from many thousands to many millions of miles away.
NASA added: “An asteroid needs to arrive at the intersection point with Earth’s orbit at the very same time Earth is crossing that point for an impact to occur.
“But even Earth is relatively small compared to the size of asteroid orbits, which is why asteroid impacts are so rare.”
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