A huge asteroid is set to skim past our planet next week, NASA has revealed.
The asteroid, dubbed 441987 (2010 NY65), is estimated to measure around 140 m – 310 metres in diameter. At the higher end of that estimate, it indicates the asteroid is over three times the size of London’s Big Ben!
The space rock is set to pass us on June 24 at 07:44 BST, at which point it will be 2.3 million mies from Earth.
While that might sound far, it’s classed as a ‘close approach’ by NASA.
During the passing, the asteroid will be travelling at staggering speeds of up to 12.89 kilometres/second. That’s around 14 times faster than a bullet!
Thankfully, the chances of 441987 (2010 NY65) hitting us are extremely low.
NASA explained: “No one should be overly concerned about an Earth impact of an asteroid or comet.
“The threat to any one person from auto accidents, disease, other natural disasters and a variety of other problems is much higher than the threat from NEOs (near Earth objects).”
However, NASA hasn’t ruled out the chance of an asteroid colliding with our planet in the near future.
It added: “Over long periods of time, however, the chances of the Earth being impacted are not negligible so that some form of NEO insurance is warranted.
“At the moment, our best insurance rests with the NEO scientists and their efforts to first find these objects and then track their motions into the future. We need to first find them, then keep an eye on them.”
If an asteroid is found to be on a collision course for Earth, NASA has several tactics up its sleeve to prevent a collision.
It explained: “One of the techniques suggested for deflecting an asteroid includes nuclear fusion weapons set off above the surface to slightly change the asteroid’s velocity without fracturing it.
“High speed neutrons from the explosion would irradiate a shell of material on the surface of the asteroid facing the explosion. The material in this surface shell would then expand and blow off, thus producing a recoil upon the asteroid itself.
“A very modest velocity change in the asteroid’s motion (only a few millimeters per second), acting over several years, can cause the asteroid to miss the Earth entirely. However, the trick is to gently nudge the asteroid out of harm’s way and not to blow it up.
“This latter option, though popular in the movies, only creates a bigger problem when all the pieces encounter the Earth.
“Another option that has been discussed includes the establishment of large solar sails on a small threatening object so that the pressure of sunlight could eventually redirect the object away from its predicted Earth collision.”