NASA asteroid WARNING: Giant 140 foot asteroid headed to Earth on Christmas Eve

Daily Express :: Science Feed
NASA asteroid WARNING: Giant 140 foot asteroid headed to Earth on Christmas Eve

The imposing , dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2018 XN5, is expected to fly by around 6.17pm GMT (UTC). During the flyby, the asteroid will make a so-called “Earth Close Approach” – an incredibly close brush with the planet. And if the US space agency’s calculations are correct, the asteroid is larger than a London red double-decker bus. NASA’s scientists at the California Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) estimate Asteroid XN5 measures in the range of 65.6ft to 144.3ft (20m to 44m).

Either end of that estimate presents an incredibly formidable space rock barreling towards Earth.

At 144.3ft, the asteroid is six-times taller than a 7ft-tall (2.13m) Christmas tree and is about 11-times longer than a Volkswagen Beetle car.

And at the lower end of that estimate, the asteroid is big enough to cause widespread destruction and injury upon planetary impact.

A similarly sized space rock struck the Earth’s atmosphere in 2013 over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

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The so-called Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in the skies over Russia, blowing out windows in a wide circle and injured more than 1,000 people with razor-sharp shards of glass.

Astronomer Pamela Gay explained on the Astronomy Cast podcast: “You have all of these people suddenly see a bright thing across the sky kablooey.

“The problem was that as it went through the sky, it was initially going faster than the speed of sound, so there was the shockwave of the explosion, and the sonic boom that travelled much slower than the speed of light.

"So you see move, move, move kablooey flash, and then pause, and then you get hit with the shockwave of the sonic boom.

“Now, for the drivers, they got to see the entire process, or catch it out of the mirror or something like that, but to the poor souls who were still eating their breakfast or in a classroom or something else, nature had it out for them because this is a Russian city.

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“They didn’t exactly use shatterproof glass to build your average apartment window.”

NASA’s calculations show Asteroid XN5 is barreling through space at speeds of 14,271.65mph (6.38km per second) – 18.6-times the speed of sound.

Thankfully, there is no danger of the asteroid spoiling your evening just before Christmas Day.

According to NASA, the asteroid will approach the Earth within 0.00760 astronomical units (au) of the planet.

One astronomical unit is the approximate distance between the Earth and Sun, and a measure of distance in space – about 93 million miles (149.5 million km).

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This means the asteroid will miss our home planet by a whole 706,464.14 miles (1.13 million km).

This is the rough equivalent of 2.96-times the distance between the Earth and the Moon – 2.96 Lunar Distances (LD).

After the asteroid safely passes the Earth, XN5 will make a close approach to the Moon at about 1.12am GMT on Christmas Day.

Based on its orbital trajectory calculations, does not expect the asteroid to visit the Earth again.

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