Asteroid alert: NASA tracks monster space rock’s close approach

The asteroid will hurtle past the planet on what astronomers have described as a “close approach” trajectory. NASA’s tracking systems have forecast the a space rock dubbed Asteroid 2020 AQ1 will approach the planet shortly after midnight tomorrow (Monday, January 20).

The space rock has been classified by NASA’s cutting-edge asteroid tracking system as a Near-Earth Object (NEO).

Asteroid 2020 AQ1 will be any its nearest to Earth tomorrow.

First spotted only last week, the asteroid is flying towards our world at speeds of about 27.51km per second or 61,538mph (99,035km/h).

NASA’s trackers estimate the rock measures somewhere in the range of 328t to 754ft (100m to 230m) across – more than twice the height of London’s Big Ben.

Asteroid 2020 AQ1 will make its closest Earth approach on January 20 at around 7.54pm GMT (2.54am EST).

NEOs are cosmic debris orbiting the Sun from a distance of a maximum of 1.3 Astronomical Units (AU).

The space rocks frequently visit Earth’s neighbourhood and sometimes cross paths with our home planet with apocalyptic consequences.

As of January 7, 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) has identified 21,655 NEO asteroids and 109 NEO comets.


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At least 996 of these space rocks have been placed on ESA’s asteroid “risk list”.

The news of the latest near-Earth asteroid encounter coincides with a scientist’s announcement there is “no question” another space rock will eventually strike Earth.

The most famous asteroid impact on Earth wiped out the dinosaurs, evidence for which can still be seen today in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Discovery Channel’s “Strip the Cosmos” revealed why NASA is studying the Chicxulub crater to learn more about a potential future event.

Peter Schultz, a scientist working at the Ames Laboratory, in California, said in 2019: “Asteroids have changed the Earth, they have changed the life on Earth, the Chicxulub impact was not that rare of an event.

“So it is critically important that we understand what happened then, just to understand what might happen in the future.

“Today we are going to do some experiment with this NASA Ames Vertical Gun, a really big gun that uses gun powder and hydrogen gas to send a projectile down through a long tube, into the chamber and slams into the target.

“It launches the projectile at a very high speed, around 5kps.

“Slamming into things and blowing them up, every kid would want this, I used to play in a sandbox in third grade, still doing it now.

“We want to watch what happens, then we can understand what may have happened 65 million years ago.”

Laura Danly, Curator at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles left viewers with a sobering thought.

She exclaimed: “There’s no question that at some point in the future, an asteroid will strike the Earth with enough energy to extinguish most life, if not all.”

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