Asteroid bigger than Empire State Building hurtling towards Earth at 18,000mph


A huge asteroid bigger than the Empire State Building is zooming towards Earth at a whopping 18,000 miles an hour, NASA has warned.

The agency is keeping a close watch on the space rock set to pass our planet on Sunday, May 15.

Any large asteroid set to come within 4.65 million miles of Earth is classified as “potentially hazardous” by boffins – and the latest asteroid on NASA’s radar falls into this category, coming within 3.5 million miles of our planet.

The atmospheric debris – known as Asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) – is 490 metres wide, making it taller than the 440 metre Empire State Building in New York.

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Any asteroid collision with Earth can wreak devastation on the planet

It is big enough to cause significant damage if it hits the planet – in 1908, a meteor that hit eastern Siberia and flattened entire forests measured around 200 metres.

Anything over 100 metres long can even create a devastating force around 10 times more destructive than a volcanic eruption.

But although there would certainly be widespread damage if Asteroid 388945 did hit the Earth, NASA reckons the chances are it will only make a “close approach”.



Asteroid
The huge space rock probably won’t hit Earth – but it will come close

Luckily, the human race has more protection against asteroids than the dinosaurs who were made extinct from a space collision.

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Scientists at NASA previously launched a £240 million project that will see a rocket fly at 23,000 kilometres per hour into an asteroid to divert its course.

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The mission is being run by NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) group, and Andy Cheng, chief scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory told the FT that it was “very exciting”.

He said: “It feels very exciting — like a dream come true — for something we’ve been thinking about for 20 years to be actually happening.

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“In a dire emergency, we could take a spacecraft being built for another purpose, tack on a new guidance system and send it up to hit the asteroid.”



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