A massive asteroid believed to be about the same size as Big Ben is set to zoom past Earth this afternoon at 30,422 miles per hour.
Is it doomsday? Probably not. Is it a pretty cool space happening worthy of your time and attention? Yup.
The asteroid, dubbed 2013 MD8, is expected to skim past Earth at just over 3 million miles away, or about 13 times the distance between Earth and the moon, at 12:55pm (ET) on Tuesday.
That’s 17:55pm on Tuesday 19 February, Greenwich Mean Time for all of you sky-starers in the UK.
NASA considers an asteroid to be ‘hazardous’ if they come within 4,600,000 miles of our planet.
In other words, MD8 has about 1.6 million miles of wiggle room to becoming potentially hazardous and does fall under the category of a ‘potentially hazardous object.’
By NASA’s standards, that means an object which reaches a minimum distance less than .05 au from Earth and has an absolute magnitude (H) of 22.0 or brighter.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to get your affairs in order in the next 10 hours.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained:
No human in the past 1000 years is known to have been killed by a meteorite or by the effects of one impacting.
NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.
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.
But Asteroid MD8 is also classifies as a ‘near-earth object’ (NEO), which NASA describes as all asteroids and comets which orbit within 30 million miles of Earth – and rightly sounds much less threatening.
The asteroid is said to be about the size of Big Ben, with a diameter that’s close to 280ft. MD8 rivals the Big Ben clock tower, which stands at 320ft, in size if not in craftsmanship.
There are 600,000 known asteroids in our solar system, roughly 16,000 are NEOs, according to NASA.
I like to think all those asteroids which fly past our tiny little green and blue planet are actually the cars of extra-terrestrial space travelers, who are off on a jaunt to Earth, and simply keep driving past the exit when they see what a mess we’ve made of the place… “Onto Saturn instead, Mary!”
Doomsday is of our own making, guys.