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19 April 2017, 13:07
An asteroid nicknamed "The Rock" - because it is as large as the Rock of Gibraltar – was due to come closer to the Earth than it has done for 400 years today. Eek.
An asteroid nicknamed "The Rock" - because it is as large as the Rock of Gibraltar – is coming closer to Earth than it has done for 400 years today. Eek.
Wednesday April 19th will see “The Rock” pass us by at a distance of 1.1 million miles, which is around 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. However there’s no chance of impact, say NASA scientists – phew!
The beast of a boulder is travelling through space at around 73mph. Surely an intergalactic traffic cop could flag it down for speeding?!
Astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first discovered 2014 JO25 – as it’s officially referred to – three years ago. It is estimated to be between 650 meters and 1.4 kilometres in length.
Smaller asteroids come close to our planet on a fairly regular basis, but “The Rock” is the largest one to do so since 2004. It’s a pretty blingy asteroid too, with a surface that’s twice as reflective as the surface of the Moon. This means that it can be visible from Earth.
If you have a telescope at home, "The Rock" should be visible to you for the next couple of nights from today. And it will be at least another 500 years before it comes this close to the Earth again.
According to The Telegraph, Robotic telescope service Slooh said the The Rock's close approach was an "alarming reminder" of just how close these destructive chunks of space debris come to Earth on an almost daily basis.
"Even a 30 metre sized asteroid can cause significant damage to a major city," said Slooh.
"While not causing an extinction level event, an impact from an asteroid the size of 'The Rock' would have a calamitous effect at the local and even regional level."
Where’s Ben Affleck when you need him?