The European Space Agency (ESA) knows of more than 600,000 asteroids barreling around our solar system. Of these 600,000 space rocks, nearly 20,000 are trapped within the confines of the inner solar system. These so-called “Near-Earth Objects” are typically small-to-medium-sized rocks but past incidents prove they can still pack a punch. And to further complicate matters, the ESA considers at least 864 of these asteroids as potential risks.
The space agency said: “These asteroids sometimes reach the ground, but even those that disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere – like the one that caused the Chelyabinsk event in 2013 – can create explosive airbursts, with resulting shockwaves that may shatter glass, damage buildings and injure anyone who happens to be nearby.
“The term ‘Near-Earth Object’ basically refers to any natural object, like an asteroid, whose orbit brings it close to Earth.
“As of March 2019, we knew of more than 600,000 asteroids in our Solar System.
“Of these, around 20,000 are near-Earth objects, 800 of which are in ESA’s risk list, meaning that they merit close follow-up observations.”
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Asteroids on the ESA Risk List have a “non-zero impact” probability, suggesting there is a slim chance one of these rocks could hit us.
The risk list is further expanded by a “Special Risk List”, which as of Sunday, August 18, lists three asteroids.
The space rocks are Asteroid 29075 1950DA, Asteroid Bennu and Asteroid 410777 2009FD.
1950DA is the biggest of the three space rocks, measuring between 0.8 miles and 1.2 miles (1,300m to 2,000m) in diameter.
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The monstrous asteroid was first observed by the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton, California, on February 22, 1950.
Asteroid 1950DA will next come scraping past our planet on March 2, 2032, when it approaches from a distance of 0.07575 astronomical units.
A single astronomical uni, or au, measures the distance from the Earth to the Sun of about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
This means Asteroid 1950DA will approach Earth from more than seven million miles (11 million km).
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Asteroid Bennu measures somewhere around 1,587ft (484m) in diameter.
The space rock is also being tracked by the space agency NASA for a daring asteroid sample return mission.
The mission, dubbed OSIRIS-REx, will swoop down to the space rock and collects rock samples from its surface.
The third asteroid, 2009FD, measures around 492ft (150m) in diameter and will fly past Earth on November 11, 2020.
The asteroid will approach Earth from 0.17321au or 16 million miles (25 million km).