The speedy asteroid dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 XF, is bound on an “Earth close approach” trajectory. Asteroid XF is barreling towards Earth 24.13km per second or 53,977mph (86,868km/h). At these rates, NASA predicts the space rock will close in our home planet on Wednesday, December 18.
The news of Asteroid XF’s close approach comes just two weeks after NASA first spotted the rock flying our way.
NASA’s astronomers at the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) first observed the rock on November 25, this year.
Since then, NASA’s asteroid trackers made 21 observations to determine the rock’s speed, size and trajectory.
Agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) pay close attention to objects like XF because of their potential threat to Earth.
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ESA said: “NEOs could potentially hit our planet and, depending on their size, produce considerable damage.
“While the chance of a large object hitting Earth is very small, it would produce a great deal of destruction.
“NEOs thus merit active detection and tracking efforts.”
Even NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has warned of the cosmic threats lurking in deep space.
In April this year, he said: “We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it’s not about movies.
“This is about ultimately protecting the only parent we know now to host life and that this planet is Earth.”
We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood
Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator
Asteroid XF is expected to come close to Earth on December 18 around 4.20am GMT (11pm EST on December 17).
NASA further estimates the rock measures somewhere in the range of 190ft to 426.5ft (58m to 130m) across.
At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, Asteroid XF is comparable in height to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
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At the lower end of NASA’s estimate, the rock is comparable in height to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
The asteroid can also be compared to seven London double-decker buses lined up in a row.
On December 18, the asteroid will approach the planet from a distance of about 0.02352 astronomical units.
Just astronomical unit measures the distance between the Sun and our planet – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
Asteroid XF will cut this down to just 2.1 million miles (3.5 million km) next week.
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.”
After the asteroid near-misses our planet NASA does not expect to swing past our planet again.
There is, however, a large rock expected to approach Earth just five days before Christmas.
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