What sounds more pleasant than a huge space rock flying towards us at 20,000mph? We’ll tell you exactly what – the fact that it’s expected to ‘skim past’ Earth. *Wipes brow*
Yes, that’s right – the end may be near but it’s not this week, unless something else happens, of course. Did we just jinx it?
According to The Sun, the asteroid, known as 2016 NH23, has been estimated to stretch between 230ft and 525ft in diameter – putting that into perspective, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt stands at 451ft tall.
The asteroid is travelling close enough to be put on NASA’s ‘potentially hazard asteroid’ watch list. Which doesn’t make us feel too comfortable – we’re not out of the woods just yet, guys.
The US space agency has said that it will make a ‘close approach’ on 29 August.
So how close is it going to be? The phrase ‘skim past’ doesn’t really fill us with confidence.
According to the Sun, it will pass within 0.03377 astronomical units, or about three million miles of Earth. Three million miles sounds like a lot, we know, but to put this into context – the sun sits at 93 million miles away.
Lindley Johnson, a planetary defence officer at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington, said the asteroid poses no risk to us on Earth.
He told Space.com: “There is absolutely nothing for concern by this pass of 2016 NF23.
“This object is merely designated a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) because its orbit over time wings it within five million miles of Earth’s orbit, but there is nothing hazardous to Earth or even unique about this pass of the asteroid.”
The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) also said: “Nasa knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.
“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.
“To be able to better calculate the statistics, astronomers need to detect as many of the near-Earth objects as possible.”
So, there you have it – hope that’s sorted the hangover right out. The asteroid isn’t going to hit Earth – since we’d be wiped out if it smashed into our planet, I think we can probably all feel a little fortunate over the next few days.
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Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH