NASA asteroid WARNING: Radar image reveals monster asteroid on Earth Approach TONIGHT

Daily Express :: Science Feed
NASA asteroid WARNING: Radar image reveals monster asteroid on Earth Approach TONIGHT

The imposing , dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2003 SD220, will zip past the planet on Saturday, December 22. NASA’s scientist are looking forward to a flyby in the wee morning hours at around 1.04am UK time (UTC). During this flyby, the asteroid will make a so-called “Earth Close Approach” and skim the Earth from an astronomically close distance. And ahead of the flyby, the asteroid has already provided the US space agency with unprecedented observations of its sheer size and shape.

NASA said: “The radar images reveal an asteroid with a length of at least one mile (1.6km) and a shape similar to that of the exposed portion of a hippopotamus wading in a river.

“They were obtained December 15 to 17 by coordinating the observations with NASA's 230ft (70m) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, the National Science Foundation's 330ft (100m) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory's 1,000ft (305m) antenna in Puerto Rico.”

Initial observations by NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) revealed the rogue space rock measures in the range of 3,018ft to 1.3 miles (920m to 2.1km) in diameter.

At the upper end of the NASA estimate, the asteroid stands at least 16-times taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

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If the asteroid slammed into the planet with full force, it could be absolutely catastrophic on a large scale.

Thankfully, does not expect Asteroid SD220 to come within striking distance of our home planet.

At its closest, the JPL estimates the space rock will come within 0.01890 astronomical units (au) or 1.75 million miles (2.82 million km) of Earth.

One astronomical unit describes the distance between the Earth and the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.5 million km).

This is the equivalent of the asteroid passing 7.36-times as far away as the Moon is from Earth – 7.36 Lunar Distances (LD).

Even with this in mind, NASA’s astronomers are paying close attention to the asteroid’s barreling trajectory through space.

The latest batch of radar images has so far provided one of the best asteroid views ever obtained by the space agency.

Lance Benner, a JPL scientist, said: “The radar images achieve an unprecedented level of detail and are comparable to those obtained from a spacecraft flyby.

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“The most conspicuous surface feature is a prominent ridge that appears to wrap partway around the asteroid near one end.

Asteroid 2003 SD220 was first discovered by astronomers on September 29, 2003, at the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS) in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The space rock was initially classified as a "potentially hazardous asteroid" because of its monstrous size and hazardous approaches to Earth's orbit.

Further calculations and observations have however confirmed SD220 poses no threat to the safety of Earth.

Tonight’s approach to Earth all marks the asteroid’s closest flyby in 400 years and the closest until 2070.

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