The imposing asteroid, dubbed Asteroid 2019 DA1 by NASA, is rapidly heading towards an “Earth Close Approach”. NASA’s asteroid-tracking systems predict Asteroid DA1 will swing by Earth on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 6. The asteroid is expected to reach its closest possible distance to Earth tomorrow around 3.04pm GMT (UTC). When this happens, the asteroid will fly through space at breakneck speeds of around 28,051.2mph or 41,141.5ft per second (12.54km per second).
According to NASA’s scientists at the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Asteroid DA1 is an Apollo-type “Near Earth Object” (NEO).
This means the asteroid has an orbital trajectory cutting into Earth’s own orbit in a way similar to Asteroid 1862 Apollo.
NEOs typically hurtle past the Earth without cause for concern but once in a lifetime a sizeable space rock like DA1 strikes the Earth.
NASA said: “Very few of these bodies are potential hazards to Earth, but the more we know and understand about them, the better prepared we will be to take appropriate measures if one is heading our way.
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“Knowing the size, shape, mass, composition and structure of these objects will help determine the best way to divert a space rock found to be on an Earth-threatening path.”
Asteroid DA1 is estimated to measure somewhere in the range of 55.5ft to 127.9ft (17m to 39m) across.
At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the space rock is almost 19 times as long as a Queen Size bed.
Even towards the lower end of NASA’s scale, DA1 is still twice as long as a double-decker bus and is four times longer than a Volkswagen Beetle car.
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A very similarly sized object struck the Earth in 2013, when an undetected asteroid took the world by surprise and exploded in the air over Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia.
The so-called Chelyabinsk Meteor only measured around 65.6ft (20m) in diameter but the force of eruption damaged some 7,000 buildings and injured more than 1,000 people with shards of broken glass.
NASA estimates the asteroid erupted with the force of 30 Hiroshima nuclear bombs.
Thankfully, with this terrifying prospect in mind, the odds of Asteroid DA1 causing similar damage tomorrow are pretty minimal.
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At its closest, the asteroid will approach our home planet from 0.00922 astronomical units (au) or 3.59 Lunar Distances (LD).
An astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which describes the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
This means Asteroid DA1 will skim the Earth tomorrow afternoon from a distance of 857,052.5 miles (1.38 million km).
In more Early terms, this is 3.59-times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.