ASTRONOMERS have shared an image of an asteroid spotted at the last minute ahead of a close flyby with Earth later today.
About the size of a school bus, the space rock poses no threat to Earth but will soar nearer to our planet than the Moon.
It was photographed by astronomers at the Virtual Telescope Project ahead of its approach at 10:52 p.m. UK time (17:52 EST) tonight.
“The near-Earth Asteroid will have a very close, but safe, encounter with us,” Gianluca Masi, who heads up the project, said.
It’s one of the thousands of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that are being tracked by experts 24/7.
They hope to provide us with an early warning if a space rock shifts onto a collision course with our planet.
Any object that comes within 4.65 million miles of us is considered “potentially hazardous” by cautious space organisations.
According to Nasa, 2022 HB1 is up to 21 metres long and travelling at 14 kilometres a second.
It will careen within 200,000 kilometres of Earth – about half the distance between our planet and the Moon.
That’s a pretty close shave in space terms, although there’s no suggestion that the asteroid has any chance of hitting us.
Even if it did collide with our planet, the space rock would pose no threat as it is small enough to safely burn up in the atmosphere.
The Virtual Telescope Project is hosting a live stream of the flyby on its website that kicks off at 7:30 p.m. UK time (14:30 EST).
It’s one of half a dozen asteroids expected to make close approaches to our planet this week.
Fortunately, none of the asteroids being tracked by Nasa are thought to pose any danger to us.
Astronomers are currently tracking 2,000 asteroids, comets and other objects that could one day threaten our pale blue dot, and new ones are discovered every day.
Earth hasn’t seen an asteroid of apocalyptic scale since the space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs 66million years ago.
However, smaller objects capable of flattening an entire city crash into Earth every so often.
One a few hundred metres across devastated 800-square miles of forest near Tunguska in Siberia on June 30, 1908.
Fortunately, Nasa doesn’t believe any of the NEOs it keeps an eye on are on a collision course with our planet.
That could change in the coming months or years, however, as the space agency frequently revises objects’ predicted trajectories.
“Nasa knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small,” Nasa says.
“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”
Even if one were to hit our planet, the vast majority of asteroids would not wipe out life as we know it.
“Global catastrophes” are only triggered when objects larger than 900 metres across smash into Earth, according to Nasa.
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