HomeLifestyleAsteroid warning: NASA tracks a ‘potentially hazardous’ rock rapidly approaching Earth
Asteroid warning: NASA tracks a ‘potentially hazardous’ rock rapidly approaching Earth
The asteroid, officially named 2012 XA133, is barreling towards us on a “close approach” trajectory. At its current speed, NASA estimates the space rock will close-in on us by the end of the month.
Asteroid XA133 was first found racing around the Sun nearly eight years ago and has since been watched by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object (CNEOS).
Astronomers have labelled the asteroid a near-Earth object (NEO) and potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).
However unlikely, potentially hazardous rocks could crash into the planet at a future date and are big enough to cause widespread destruction upon impact.
NASA said: “A relatively small number of near-Earth objects pass close enough to Earth and are large enough in size to warrant close observation.
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“That’s because the gravitational tug of the planets could, over time, cause an object’s orbital path to evolve into an Earth-crossing orbit.
“This allows for the possibility of a future collision.”
NASA predicts Asteroid XA133 will make its closest approach to Earth on March 27 around 3.52am GMT (10.42pm EST).
NASA believes potentially hazardous asteroids and comets can both get “unusually close” to Earth.
The space agency said: “Potentially hazardous asteroids are about 150m – about 500ft – or larger, roughly twice as big as the Statue of Liberty is tall.
“They approach Earth’s orbit to within 7.5 million km – about 4.6 million miles.”
This allows for the possibility of a future collision
Based on NASA’s observation, Asteroid XA133 is a pretty formidable object.
The asteroid is estimated to measures somewhere between 590ft and 1,279ft (180m and 390m) across.
At the upper end of the estimate, the asteroid is slightly taller than the Empire State Building in New York, US.
At the lower end of NASA’s estimate, XA133 is comparable in height to The Space Needle in Seattle, US, and St Paul’s Cathedral in London, UK.
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NASA also estimates the space rock is flying through space at speeds of around 23.67km per second or 52,948mph (85,212kmh).
NASA said: “Knowing the size, shape, mass, composition and structure of these objects helps determine the best way to divert one, should it have an Earth-threatening path.”
But will the space rock come close enough to Earth on March 27 for NASA to sound the alarm bells?
Despite making a so-called close approach on the cosmic scale of distances, the asteroid will miss us by many millions of miles.
At its closest, NASA said the asteroid will fly past Earth from about 0.04453 astronomical units.
A single astronomical unit measures about 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance from our planet to the Sun.
In other words, NASA is certain the rock will miss us by about 4.1 million miles (6.66 million km).
Although this might seem like a lifetime away, on the cosmic scale of distances, it is a relatively visit from the asteroid.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, NEOs 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.”