A Huge 500ft Asteroid Has Just Skimmed Earth At 20,000mph

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A Huge 500ft Asteroid Has Just Skimmed Earth At 20,000mph

Ever been driving along and made a close call of not hitting that street sign? Well, Nasa has described a space rock – the size of the London Eye – coming past the Earth in a similar way. That’s definitely a casual comparison.

The ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid that was plummeting in the Earth’s direction was said to have made a ‘close approach’ but just skimmed on past.

The asteroid, known as 2016 NH23, has been estimated to stretch between 230ft and 525ft in diameter. To put that into perspective, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt stands at 451ft tall.

It made its closest approach to Earth at 04:38am (BST). At this point it was, luckily for us, a cool three million miles from our planet.

Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH
Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

As it passed by our humble blue planet, the asteroid was travelling at a staggering speed of 20,000mph.

That’s about 15 times faster than the 1,354mph at which the retired Concorde used to bezz around the skies.

Despite skimming by us, three million miles away, the asteroid’s distance and size were still enough for NASA to deem it a danger to us and the agency popped it on the ‘potentially hazardous asteroid’ watch list.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

If you think any asteroid within 4,650,000 miles from our planet and with a diameter larger than 500 feet is registered as ‘potentially hazardous’, it doesn’t make us feel too comfortable of the close call the Earth had in the early hours.

An even scarier thought is that if the asteroid had hit Earth it would be big enough to completely annihilate an entire city – which would potentially kill millions of unsuspecting people.

The words ‘close approach‘ and ‘skim past’ – not to mention ‘potentially hazardous’ – are definitely not words to keep us in a calm mood about space rocks. But NASA says we have nothing to worry about – phew.

Lindley Johnson, a planetary defence officer at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington, said the asteroid posed no risk to us on Earth.

He told Space.com: “There is absolutely nothing for concern by this pass of 2016 NF23.

“This object is merely designated a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) because its orbit over time wings it within five million miles of Earth’s orbit, but there is nothing hazardous to Earth or even unique about this pass of the asteroid.”

If that doesn’t fill you with the kind of comfort you’re looking for, NASA also stated that we were safe from an asteroid strike for many years to come.

The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) also said: “NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.

“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.

“To be able to better calculate the statistics, astronomers need to detect as many of the near-Earth objects as possible.”

Featured Image Credit: Youtube

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