US space agency NASA has identified the asteroid, nicknamed 1999 VF22, as potentially dangerous. This is because asteroid will make an Earth Close Approach this afternoon. And NASA asteroid trackers have pinpointed the exact moment the colossal space rock will skim the Earth today. Stargazers cannot, however, expect to spot 1999 VF22 with an ordinary telescope.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) astrophysicists anticipate asteroid VF22 to make its closest approach to our planet at 3.57pm GMT (10.57am ET).
Today, no known asteroid merits any worry, but many remain undiscovered
And the asteroid will do so at breakneck speeds of around 60,000mph.
This is the equivalent of 26.48km per second or approximately 80-times the speed of sound.
NASA JPL scientists have also been able to estimate VF22’s size as somewhere between 656.ft to 1,500ft (200m to 450m) across.
Asteroid 1999 VF22: A huge space rock will make an Earth close approach this afternoon
Asteroid 1999 VF22: The 500m asteroid is is hurtling towards Earth at 60,000mph
This makes this asteroid approximately five times the size of London’s iconic Big Ben building, also known as the Elizabeth Tower.
Asteroids of this size have actually repeatedly slammed into our planet in the past.
Such asteroid impacts happen roughly every 1,000 years to 500,000 years.
European Space Agency (ESA) estimates conclude these asteroids represent one of the deadliest threats to humanity.
An ESA spokesperson said: “The main challenge stems from the population of middle-size objects, ranging from tens to hundreds of metres in diameter.
“There are a lot of these asteroids, and most have not been spotted yet. Any impact from one of these could really do damage to a city or a populated area.
“But if they are discovered early enough, their point of impact could be estimated with a good degree of accuracy, and measures could be taken to protect people.
“Today, no known object merits any worry, but many remain undiscovered, so we need to keep searching.”
Asteroid strike: An object the size of VF22 would inflict apocalyptic damage on Earth
NASA asteroid; Serious impacts occur roughly every 1,000 years to 500,000 years
Fortunately, there is no chance the rogue asteroid will alter its trajectory today to slam into Earth .
Even at its closest, the space rock will miss the Earth by more than 4.5 million miles (7.35 million km).
This will happen because VF22 is a so-called Near-Earth Objects (NEO) – an asteroid or comet, which cuts into the Earth’s orbit.
NEOs might appear to be a misnomer due to the incredible distances involved, however this is a near-miss on the cosmic scale.
NASA explained: “Near-Earth objects are asteroids or comets of sizes ranging from metres to tens of kilometres that orbit the Sun and whose orbits come close to that of Earth’s.
“Of the more than 600,000 known asteroids in our Solar System, more than 16,000 are NEOs.
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Tomorrow afternoon, Asteroid VF22 will approach our corner of space from a distance of approximately 0.04917 astronomical units (au).
One astronomical unit measures around 93 million miles (149.6 million km), the average distance between our planet and the Moon.
Asteroid VF22 will cut this down during its flyby down to just 4.57 million miles (7.35 million km).
And this is not the last time we hear from VF22. NASA scientists have calculated the asteroid will sim the Earth again in 2020.