Eiffel Tower sized asteroid set to zoom past Earth today

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Eiffel Tower sized asteroid set to zoom past Earth today
Artist's concept of a near-Earth objectNASA/JPL-Caltech

  • Asteroid 310442 (2000 CH59) is set to fly past the planet today.
  • The stadium-sized asteroid is the biggest to visit the planet in December.
  • It will be travelling at 44,417 kilometres an hour mere 7 million kilometres from Earth.
Earlier this month, we saw asteroids zoom past the Earth in packs of four and now the biggest asteroid of December is set to fly by.

Asteroid 310442 (2000 CH59) is the size of a stadium measuring between 280 meters to 620 meters in diameters. That means, at its widest, the asteroid is as big as the second-tallest structure in the world — the Tokyo Skytree. At its smallest, it’s still at least as big as the Eiffel Tower.


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Eiffel Tower sized asteroid set to zoom past Earth today
Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest structure in the world, in JapanWikimedia

Aside from the size, asteroid has impressive speed as well. Observations show that it will be going at 44,417 kilometres per hour as it approaches the planet.

Given its size and trajectory, it has been identified by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies ( CNEOS) as ‘potentially hazardous’.

How do they know it’s coming?

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The asteroid was first spotted on 6 February 2000 as per the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s ( JPL) records. Observations show that the asteroid goes around the Sun passing between the orbits of Mercury and Venus when its closest to the star.

Is the asteroid going to hit the planet?

Despite its size and velocity, Asteroid 310442 is not going to crash into the planet. It will be a good 7.3 million kilometres from the Earth’s surface as it makes its approach.

While that may seem like a good distance away, in astronomical terms, it’s actually quite close — a mere fraction of the 240.09 million kilometres between the Earth and Mars.
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According to astronomers, it’s only a matter of time before an asteroid sets a direct course for the planet. They believe it might not be ‘ dinosaur destroying’ but it will definitely be a ‘doomsday’ hit.

"There are always rocks flying through space. Inevitably one of these will hit us and it will have pretty dramatic effects," Cardiff University scientists Ian McDonald told BBC Today.

When’s the next asteroid?

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The next asteroid, as big as the one flying past the Earth today, will be visiting on 10 January 2020. But, Asteroid (2019 UO) will be a lot closer, albeit slower.

An even bigger asteroid is on the way in April. Asteroid 52768 (1998 OR2) is over 4 kilometres in diameter — half the size of Mount Everest. It will be zooming past the planet at over 30,000 kilometres per hour.

See also:
10 stunning pictures you must see if you missed the 'Ring of Fire' solar eclipse

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