Asteroid rock 2020 QL2 will hurtle past the Earth and the Moon, in what NASA has described as a ‘near Earth’ approach, on Monday, September 14. The asteroid is estimated to be as large as 400ft (120m), making it almost the size of the iconic London Eye.
NASA estimates the rock could be anything between 53m and 120m, making it potentially one of the largest rocks on their NEO Earth Close Approaches list. Asteroid observers at US-based space agency NASA have revealed the space rock is currently travelling at 10.5 kilometres per second, or 23,666 mph.
Such speeds mean the asteroid could travel from the UK to New York more than eight times in an hour.However, the asteroid will safely pass our planet at ten times the distance between the Earth and the Moon, some 4,259,235 miles away.
Despite this seemingly enormous distance, NASA has described it as a ‘near-Earth object’ (NEO).
The US space agency says: “Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourrhood.”
Asteroid 2020 QL2 was first sighted on August 14 this year, with its most recent sighting being on September 3, according to NASA data.
NASA has categorically confirmed the space rock will not hit Earth.
But if it did, 2020 QL2 could cause some sizeable damage.
At 120 metres long, it would be far more catastrophic than Chelyabinsk event in 2013, when a 20m meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, smashing windows and injuring more than 1,000 people.
So while it is not going to hit Earth, the close approach does reiterate a need to maintain careful observations of the heavens.
NASA says about one hundreds tons of “interplanetary material” heads towards the Earth’s surface on a daily basis.
Those that reach the surface are just tiny dust particles, created when a comet’s ice vaporises.
But about every 10,000 years or so, “rocky or iron asteroids larger than about 100 meters would be expected to reach the Earth’s surface and cause local disasters or produce the tidal waves that can inundate low lying coastal areas.
“On an average of every several hundred thousand years or so, asteroids larger than a kilometre could cause global disasters.”
NASA also says there is nothing to fear as the chance of a major asteroid hitting Earth is very, very slim.
Even if an asteroid were on a collision course with Earth, NASA says it is 70 percent more likely to hit water than land.
While the chances of an asteroid big enough to destroy a city is about 0.1 percent in any given year.
The space agency adds: “No one should be overly concerned about an Earth impact of an asteroid or comet.
“The threat to any one person from auto accidents, disease, other natural disasters and a variety of other problems is much higher than the threat from NEOs.
Originally published by Express