Theasteroid’s close approach this week is being tracked byNASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). NASA’s astronomers estimate the rock is flying towards Earth at breakneck speeds of more than 27,400mph.
At this rate, NASA expects the asteroid to close in on Earth right after Christmas, on Boxing Day, December 26.
The rock will appear in Earth’ corner of spacearound 7.54am GMT (2.54am EST).
Astronomers have named the rocky body Asteroid 2000 CH59 and have dubbed it “potentially hazardous” due to its colossal size.
Based on NASA’s predictions, the rock is large enough to level an entire continent should it come crashing into our planet.
The US space agency estimates CH59 measures somewhere between 918ft to 2,034ft (280m to 620m) across.
Asteroid warning: A large space rock will fly past Earth on Boxing Day(Image: NASA/GETTY)
Asteroid warning: NASA has dubbed the asteroid ‘potentially hazardous’(Image: GETTY)
An asteroid at the upper boundary of that estimate is comparable in height to Chicago’s Sears Tower.
But even at the lower end of the estimate, the imposing space rock is large enough to threaten millions of innocent lives.
NASA said: “Potentially hazardous asteroids are about 150 meters – almost 500ft – or larger, roughly twice as big as the Statue of Liberty is tall.
“They approach Earth’s orbit to within 7.5 million kilometres – about 4.6 million miles.
“By comparison, when Mars and Earth are at their closest, they are about 53 million kilometres – about 33 million miles – apart.”
“Potentially hazardous comets also get unusually close to Earth.”
NASA keeps a watchful eye on asteroids zipping around Earth due to their destructive potential.
Potentially hazardous asteroids are about 150 meters – almost 500ft – or larger
When a six mile-wide (10km) rock struck the Earth 66 million years ago, the impact triggered a mass extinctions that ended the reign of the dinosaurs.
But even much smaller asteroids have caused considerable chaos when they struck Earth in the past.
In 2013, for instance, a 20m-wide (65.6ft) rock entered Earth’s atmosphere undetected and exploded over Russia.
The resulting airblast spread over a wide radius, damaging thousands of buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people with shards of blown-out windows.
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Asteroid warning: Four large space rocks with a slim chance of hitting Earth(Image: GETTY)
Asteroid warning: Thankfully, the space rock will not hIt Earth any time soon(Image: GETTY)
At the time, NASA’s astronomers dubbed the so-called Chelyabinsk meteor a sobering “wake-up call” to the dangers lurking in deep space.
Asteroid CH59 is 31 times larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor but the good news is NASA does not expect the rock to come crashing into Earth.
On Boxing Day, the rock is expected to miss our planet by a safe margin of about 0.04874 astronomical units (au).
A single astronomical unit describes the distance between the Earth and the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, NEOs 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 kilometres.”
Asteroid CH59 will miss Earth on Boxing Day from a distance of about 4.5 million miles (7.29 million km).
After that, the rock will make a close approach of Venus on September 10, 2020.
The asteroid will then visit the Earth again on March 23, 2021.