The speedy asteroid is not expected to approach the Earth until April but when it does, it will be an incredibly close shave. The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2016 GE1, will fly by our home planet on Thursday, April 4. NASA’s asteroid trackers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, predict GE1 will appear near Earth around 6.26pm BST (5.26pm UTC). The US space agency said Asteroid GE1 will skim our home-world on a so-called “Earth Close Approach” trajectory.
Asteroid GE1 is an Apollo-type asteroid discovered on April 2, 2016.
The space rock was found three years ago when it cut into the Earth’s orbit of the Sun, which earned it the title of a “Near-Earth Object” or NEO.
NASA explained: “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.”
In the past, the asteroid visited Earth’s corner of space on three occasions between February 2010 and April 2016.
On April 5, 2016, the asteroid also flew past the Moon incredibly close.
Next week, the asteroid will shoot past Earth likely for the last time in the foreseeable future but will do so from a very close distance.
According to NASA, the barrelling space rock will reach a minimum distance on April 4 of 0.00285 astronomical units (au) from Earth.
One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth
NASA expects Asteroid GE1 to drastically trim this down next week to just 264,924 miles (426,353km).
The JPL said this is roughly 1.11 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
But the close approach does not mean the asteroid will hit us anytime soon and there is a good chance the asteroid will actually pass Earth four times farther than the Moon.
NASA said the nominal close approach distance for the asteroid measures about 0.00998 au or 927,698 miles (1.49 million km).
NASA also said the asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 42.6ft to 91.8ft (13m to 28m) across.
At the upper end of that scale, the asteroid is more than three times as long as a London double-decker bus.
After the space rock passes Earth next Thursday, NASA does not expect any additional close approaches from the asteroid in the near future.
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