The asteroid’s approach is being tracked by NASA’s automated systems at the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Officially designated Asteroid 2020 EA, the space rock was only confirmed in the solar system this week.
NASA has been watching the asteroid since March 2 and has calculated the rock’s approximate size, speed and trajectory.
The US space agency determined 2020 EA is an Amor-type NEO or near-Earth object on a path that will bring it close to Earth.
Amor-type asteroids are all NEOs on orbits similar to that of the asteroid 1221 Amor.
NEOs are all comets and asteroids that race around the Sun from cosmically close distances.
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NASA said: “Near-Earth Objects 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.”
Asteroid 2020 EA will come close to Earth on Friday, March 6,
Based on NASA’s observations, the asteroid is headed our way at speeds of about 8.27km per second or 18,499mph (29,772kmh).
At these breakneck speeds, the asteroid is expected to be closest to Earth at about 3.30am GMT on Friday.
NASA said: “Some asteroids and comets follow orbital paths that take them much closer to the Sun and therefore Earth – than usual.
“If a comet or asteroid’s approach brings it to within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun, we call it a near-Earth object.
Space rocks smaller than about 25m – about 82ft – will most likely burn up
“One astronomical unit is close to the mean distance between the Sun and Earth approximately 150 million kilometres – about 93 million miles.”
NASA estimates the space rock measures somewhere in the range of 108.3ft to 239.5ft (33m to 73m) across.
At the upper end of that estimate, the asteroid is wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 747-8 Jumbo Jet.
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At the lower end of the scales, the asteroid is about as wide as four London doubledecker buses lined up in a row.
NASA said: “Space rocks smaller than about 25m – about 82ft – will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause little or no damage.
“If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than one kilometre – a little more than half-a-mile – were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.”
But does NASA expect the asteroid to come close enough to strike the planet this week?
At its closest, Asteroid 2020 EA will approach our homeworld from about 0.04610 astronomical units.
In other words, the asteroid will safely miss us by a margin of about 4.28 million miles (6.89 million km).
Although this might seem like an incredibly far flyby, on the cosmic scale of distances, it is pretty close to home.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”
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