360-foot-wide mon­ster as­teroid on ‘Earth ap­proach’ to­day: NASA warns

Iran Daily - - Science & Technology -

An enor­mous as­teroid large enough to wipe out an en­tire city will zip past the planet to­day in the af­ter­noon, space agency NASA warned.

A dense, iron-packed as­teroid as lit­tle as 40 feet across (12 me­ters) has the power to wipe out build­ings across a 3.6-mile ra­dius (5.79 kilo­me­ters), ex­press. co.uk re­ported.

And the bad news is one about three times as big is cur­rently bar­rel­ing to­wards the Earth at break­neck speeds of 14,808.5 miles per hour (6.62 kilo­me­ters per sec­ond). The gi­ant space rock tracked by NASA, of­fi­cially la­beled As­teroid 2018 VX4, is ex­pected to fly by the planet to­day (Sun­day – De­cem­ber 9).

The space agency said the as­teroid’s tra­jec­tory matches the pa­ram­e­ters of a so-called Earth Close Ap­proach.

The as­teroid was dubbed a Near-earth Ob­ject (NEO) as a re­sult of its close brush with the Earth.

NASA’S sci­en­tists at the Cal­i­for­nia-based Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory (JPL) be­lieve it will be clos­est to Earth around 5:06 p.m. GMT (UTC) to­day.

The as­tronomers es­ti­mate VX4 mea­sures some­where in the ter­ri­fy­ing range of 157.5 feet to 360.9 feet (48 me­ters to 110 me­ters).

At 360 feet in di­am­e­ter, the as­teroid is as wide as an Amer­i­can foot­ball field is long, and NASA be­lieves space rocks this big are lethal threats.

The space agency said, “Ev­ery 2,000 years or so, a me­te­oroid the size of a foot­ball field hits Earth and causes sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the area.”

On av­er­age, hun­dreds of tons of space de­bris re­lent­lessly slam into the Earth ev­ery sin­gle day.

Most of this space dust burns up in the at­mos­phere be­fore it can reach the sur­face of the planet and cause dam­age.

How­ever, an in­ter­stel­lar ob­ject as big as As­teroid VX4 would eas­ily sur­vive the fiery de­scent through the at­mos­phere and im­pact with brute force.

Ac­cord­ing to NASA, any Earth-bound as­teroid larger than 82 feet (25 me­ters) is likely to hit the planet and “cause lo­cal dam­age to the im­pact area.”

With these fig­ures in mind, the thought of VX4 slam­ming into Earth with full force is a ter­ri­fy­ing one.

Thank­fully, the odds of the as­teroid veer­ing off straight into our home planet are ab­so­lutely min­i­mal.

On the cos­mic scale of dis­tances, a Close Earth Ap­proach is an in­cred­i­bly close skim of the planet.

To us hu­mans, how­ever, this could mean mil­lions of miles in space.

NASA ex­plained: “As they or­bit the Sun, Near-earth Ob­jects can oc­ca­sion­ally ap­proach close to Earth.

“Note that a ‘close’ pas­sage as­tro­nom­i­cally can be very far away in hu­man terms: Mil­lions or even tens of mil­lions of kilo­me­ters.”

To­day, As­teroid VX4 will ap­proach the Earth within 0.01050 as­tro­nom­i­cal units (au) of its sur­face.

One as­tro­nom­i­cal unit is the av­er­age dis­tance be­tween the Earth and the Sun – about 92.3 mil­lion miles (149.59 mil­lion kilo­me­ters).

As­teroid VX4 will sig­nif­i­cantly shorten this down to just 976,035.98 miles (1.57 mil­lion kilo­me­ters) from Earth.

This is the equiv­a­lent of 4.09-times the dis­tance from the Earth to the Moon – so-called Lu­nar Dis­tances (LD).

Based on the JPL’S cal­cu­la­tions, the as­teroid last vis­ited Earth’s cor­ner of space on Novem­ber 13, 2013, and Oc­to­ber 21, 2008.

After to­day, the as­teroid is not ex­pected to swing past the planet again.

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