Big Ben-sized asteroid to fly past Earth this week

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An asteroid the size of London's famous Big Ben clock tower is set to whiz past Earth this week.

The space rock, known as 2020 TGI, will fly safely past Earth on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 10:49 p.m. EST, according to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.

Researchers estimate 2020 TGI is traveling at a speed of roughly 30,700 miles per hour and will fly past the planet at a distance of just over 7 million miles.

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Its most recent encounter with the planet was April 20, 2013, and it will not come close to Earth again until Feb. 6, 2024. Scientists estimate that 2020 TGI is between 154 and 360 feet wide.

"Potentially hazardous" NEOs are defined as space objects that come within 0.05 astronomical units and measure more than 460 feet in diameter, according to NASA. According to a 2018 report put together by Planetary.org, there are more than 18,000 NEOs.

In August, an asteroid the size of a pickup-truck flew within 2,000 miles of Earth, the closest ever recorded. It was missed by NASA until after it flew past the planet.

NASA unveiled a 20-page plan in 2018 that details the steps the U.S. should take to be better prepared for NEOs, such as asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of the planet.

A recent survey showed that Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts over sending humans back to the moon or to Mars.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in April 2019 that an asteroid strike is not something to be taken lightly and is perhaps Earth's biggest threat.

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