Asteroid: Expert explains how ‘Earth defence simulations' work
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A space rock called 2021 CF8 is coming close to Earth this evening, astronomers have revealed. The asteroid is a staggering 54 metres long, which makes it roughly the same size as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is 56 metres.
NASA analysis has revealed the asteroid is travelling at an incomprehensible speed of 11.8 kilometres per second.
This means it is going at speeds north of 42,000 kilometres per hour, or 26,000 miles per hour.
To put it into perspective, that is more than 100 times faster than the average commercial jet.
NASA has revealed the asteroid 2021 CF8 will fly by our planet safely, however.
The space agency said the asteroid will pass our planet by 11.5 lunar distances.
One lunar distance is the measurement between Earth and the Moon – or 384,000 kilometres.
With the asteroid passing at 11.5 lunar distances, this will mean it is a very safe 4.4 million kilometres from us.
However, this is still considered a near-Earth object (NEO), according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
The ESA stated there are more than 20,000 NEOs floating through the solar system – although there are likely to be much more.
While this particular NEO does not pose a threat to our planet, the ESA said there is a “very small” chance one could one day collide with Earth.
The ESA said: “Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are asteroids or comets of sizes ranging from metres to tens of kilometres that orbit the Sun and whose orbits come close to that of Earth’s.
“Of the more than 600,000 known asteroids in our Solar System, more than 20,000 are NEOs.
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“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.”
The ESA uses its NEO Segment team to search the skies for asteroids which come close to Earth.
The role of NEO Segment is to “provide warnings on potential asteroid impact hazards, including discovery, identification, orbit prediction and civil alert capabilities.”
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