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27th Jun 2023

Asteroid bigger than ten buses is hurtling towards Earth

Steve Hopkins

It is passing close enough to be recorded as a ‘near-Earth object’

A space rock bigger than ten buses is hurtling towards Earth and is due to fly past on Wednesday.

NASA says the asteroid, called 2013 WV44 and estimated to be up to 524 feet (160 metres) in diameter – bigger than the London Eye – will pass around 9am BST.

According to a report by MailOnline the asteroid will be travelling at 11.8 km per second, or over 26,000 miles per hour.

While heading towards Earth, it won’t get closer than 2.1 million miles.

Despite being around nine times further out than the moon, the asteroid is classed as a near-Earth object (NEO) and is being tracked by NASA.

NASA has said: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

“Composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system while most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6billion years ago.”

A near-Earth object is anything that comes within 1.3 astronomical units (AU) – 120.8million miles – of the sun and hence within 0.3 AU (27.8m miles) of Earth’s orbit.

While 2013 WV44 will be 2.1m miles away, it is actually close in astronomical terms and is listed by NASA as one of the upcoming close approaches on its online tracker.

Asteroids are listed as “potentially hazardous” if it comes within 0.05 astronomical units (4.65m miles) of Earth and is larger than 459 feet (140 meters) in diameter.

2013 WV44 does not meet those specifications, but could still come within Earth’s orbit.

“Although it is not a PHA [potentially hazardous asteroid], it is relatively large,” Japanese astronomer Atsuo Asami wrote on Twitter.

Almost all NEOs are near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), although there are such things as near-Earth comets (NECs) too.

NASA says there are 32,254 known NEAs in our solar system, up 30,000 since last October.

It’s estimated that there are more than 10,000 larger than 460 feet (140 metres) in diameter, and nearly 1,000 larger than 3,280 feet (1km) in diameter – highlighting the need to keep track of these space rocks.

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