NASA asteroid tracker: LOOK OUT as 130FT asteroid skims Earth this week

The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2016 CO246, will pass Earth on a so-called “Earth Close Approach”. NASA’s astronomers predict the asteroid will cross paths with Earth’s orbit on Friday, February 22. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have narrowed the passage down to 3.56pm GMT on Friday. NASA’s JPL further estimates the asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 59ft to 127.9ft (18m to 39m) across.

At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, is an asteroid about two times as long as a standard bowling lane.

The asteroid is also believed to be about 19.5-times the length of a Queen Size Bed and 9.5-times longer than a Volkswagen Beetle car.

Towards the other end of the scale, a 59ft-long asteroid is almost three times as tall as an average giraffe.

A similarly sized asteroid injured more than 1,000 people in 2013 when it entered the atmosphere undetected and exploded over Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia.

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The Chelyabinsk Meteor, as it was nicknamed, only measured around 65.6ft (20m) in diameter but blew up with 30-times the force of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

The resulting arblast damaged more than 7,000 buildings in the region, pummelling people with shrapnel of broken glass from blown out windows.

Thankfully, NASA does not expect Asteroid CO246 to deviate from its orbit enough to cause similar damage this Friday.

The giant asteroid is a so-called “Near-Earth Object” (NEO), meaning it occasionally cuts into the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

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When this happens, NEOs sometimes come dangerously close to the planet, enough to warrant interest from NASA’s asteroid-tracking systems.

This week, however, Asteroid CO246 is expected to miss the Earth by nearly four million 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 kilometres.”

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On Friday, the asteroid will approach the Earth from a distance of approximately 0.04051 astronomical units (au).

One astronomical unit is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun and measures about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).

NASA expects Asteroid CO246 to cut this down considerably to just 3.765 million miles (6.06 million km).

This is the equivalent of 15.77 Lunar Distances (LD) or 15.77-times the distance from Earth to the Moon.