Archive | August 28, 2018
A ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid bigger than St. Paul’s Cathedral will zoom close to Earth tomorrow (29th August 2018)
Gigantic space rock is called 2016 NF23 and is zooming towards our planet at a speed of more than 20,000 miles per hour
A huge asteroid bigger than one of Britain’s most famous landmarks is zooming towards our planet and will reach the nearest point of its journey past Earth tomorrow. The gigantic space rock is called 2016 NF23 and is heading for Earth at a speed of more than 20,000 miles per hour – which is about 15 times as fast as Concorde. Nasa thinks the object is up to 160 metres wide, meaning it could be bigger than St. Paul’s Cathedral, which stands 111 metres high and was the tallest building in London until 1967.
It will pass by at a distance of about 3 million miles on 29 August and is close enough to be considered ‘potentially hazardous’. If the rock hit Earth, it would destroy an entire city and kill millions. Luckily, it’s not on a collision course with our planet so will not do us any damage. Lindley Johnson, a planetary defence officer at Nasa, told Space.com: ‘This object is merely designated a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) because its orbit over time wings it within five million miles of Earth’s orbit, but there is nothing hazardous to Earth or even unique about this pass of the asteroid.’
Humanity doesn’t need to fear gigantic asteroids big enough to wipe us off the face of the Earth, because they are easy to track due to their enormous size. But we should be very afraid of smaller ‘stealth asteroids’ which are big enough to wipe out a city and extremely difficult to detect. The European Space Agency believes astronomers have spotted just 1 in 100 space rocks which are 1km wide or less.
Nasa figures reveal that roughly 4,300 space rocks of between 100 metres and 1 kilometre have been spotted to date. If ESA’s predictions are correct, it could mean there are actually 430,000 asteroids out there and we’ve no idea where most of them are or whether they are on a collision course with our planet. Detlef Koschny, head of the ESA near-Earth objects team, said that even small objects could do major damage. ‘If a 100-metre asteroid hit Earth, it would cause significant damage in an area the size of Germany, and even affect the surrounding region. But asteroids of this size don’t strike Earth very often. Maybe every 10,000 years on average,’ he told Space Daily. ‘Going from 100 metres down to 50 metres, the statistical frequency of strikes increases to once every 1,000 years. A century ago in 1908, a 40-metre object struck the Earth over Tunguska, Siberia, destroying an area of forest the size of the Munich metro area.
‘And then if we go down to asteroid sizes around 20 metres – like the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013, which ended up injuring 1,500 people – these occur on average once every 10 to 100 years. We will definitely see something like that again in our lifetime.’ Earlier this year, Nasa warned of a ‘vulnerability’ in Earth’s defences which means there is only a ‘limited’ chance of spotting asteroids coming from a certain direction in space. Koschny backed up this warning, saying smaller objects are often only spotted when they pass the moon. If a large asteroid was spotted this late, it may not give governments enough time to evacuate any cities in the firing line.
Courtesy of metro.co.uk