The space rock known as 310442 (2000 CH59) is a monster of an asteroid measuring 372 metres. At that size, the asteroid is bigger than the Shard in London, which stands at 310 metres tall, meaning the rock is large enough to cause damage on a regional scale. According to NASA, the asteroid is travelling at astronomical speeds, making its way through the solar system at an almost unbelievable 12.3 kilometres per second, or 44,280 kilometres per hour.
For reference, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet ever built, could not even reach New York from London in an hour.
The asteroid will come closest to Earth on Boxing Day when the space rock will come within 0.049au (astronomical units) of our planet.
One AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun (149,598,000 km) so 2000 CH59 will be 7,330,295 kilometres away.
Although this seems like a sizeable distance, it is close enough for NASA to describe it as “potentially hazardous”.
The space agency said: “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
“Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less are considered PHAs.”
Asteroids are one of the major threats to humanity – and experts have said there are tens of millions which are yet to be discovered.
If these space rocks are not found, they could pose a risk to Earth, as experts claimed anything larger than 10 metres could explode on our planet with the power of a nuclear bomb.
The team behind Asteroid Day – an awareness day which falls on June 30 each year – has said that just 21,443 asteroids which pose a huge threat to humanity have been discovered.
While this number seems large, there are tens of millions of near Earth objects (NEOs) in the solar system alone which have yet to be found and have the potential to cause large scale destruction on our planet.
A statement from the Asteroid Day organisers, which includes Dr Holger Sierks, principal investigator Rosetta/OSIRIS and Dr Patrick Michel, AIDA/Hera principal investigator, read: “There are several tens of millions of NEOs larger than 10 meters in size that would have an energy larger than a small nuclear weapon if they entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and we have identified just 21,443, as of 5th November, 2019.
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“These bodies are leftover matter from the formation of planets and range in size from a few meters to tens of kilometres.
“As with Earth, NEOs orbit the Sun and sometimes they come dangerously close or cross Earth’s trajectory – potentially causing impacts.
“This has happened several times in the past and one day it will happen again.”
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