2017 is nearly over, but our so-called impending doom is apparently still hurtling towards us all pretty fast – and it’s the size of a bus.
Luckily, we’re all going to escape the doomsday prophecies by a whisker, as the bus-sized asteroid in question will experience a ‘near miss’ with Planet Earth today, December 28, at speeds of more than 21,000mph (34,000km/h).
You can watch a nice GIF of our almost-potential-destruction courtesy of The Watchers:
The asteroid, which has been lovingly named 2017 YZ4 after it was spotted on Christmas Day, will pass between the Earth and moon at a distance of just 139,433 miles (224,000 km).
That’s just over 13 times the distance between London and Sydney, give or take a few thousand miles, and accounting for my bad maths skills and getting lost along the way.
The Moon is 238,000 miles from Earth, and this pass is considered a cat’s whisker in astronomical terms. In other words, the asteroid will come close enough for NASA to describe the astronomical event as ‘hazardous’.
The Space Agency calls any asteroid flying within a proximity of 4,600,000 miles (7,403,00km) to our planet ‘hazardous’ and this gigantic piece of detritus falls well outside those socially-acceptable boundaries of planetary space – much like an awkward relative who comes in too close for a quick chat.
The asteroid’s personal space issues could potentially stem from its sheer size. It’s hard to keep track of such bulk, after all.
The potentially hazardous asteroid is 22.6 to 49 feet in diameter (seven to 15 metres). So watch out because it’s due to skim past Earth at 4.56pm GMT (11.56 ET) this afternoon, dropping in without so much as a warning text.
A NASA spokesperson told the Express:
This is the first known asteroid to flyby Earth within one lunar distance since two such asteroids flew past us 35 minutes apart on November 21, and the 52nd this year.
As of December 24, there are 17,495 known Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) around our planet; 17,389 are asteroids.
This year, we discovered 1,985 new near-Earth asteroids. There were 1888 such objects discovered in 2016 and 1,571 in 2015.
As it turns out, there are loads of ‘potentially hazardous’ astroids flying around out there. Earlier this month a massive asteroid called 3200 Phaethon made its closest approach to Earth at around 6.4 million miles (10.3 million kilometers) away.
The new observations conducted from December 15-19 show Phaethon to be about 3.6 miles (six kilometres) wide.
This means it’s larger than previously thought, by about 0.6 miles (one kilometre).
It passed by Earth this month at about 27 times the distance between our planet and the moon. Similarly, before its approach, NASA revealed asteroid 3200 Phaethon is classed as ‘potentially hazardous.’
In a statement about the asteroid, which was first discovered in 1983, a spokesperson for Nasa said:
With a diameter of about 5km, Phaethon is the third largest near-Earth asteroid classified as ‘Potentially Hazardous’.
The latest approach is the closest the asteroid has been to Earth since December 16, 1974, when it was around 5 million miles away – although we were blissfully unaware at the time.
NASA is closely monitoring the latest bus-sized asteroid to fly onto our radar, and is constantly on the look-out for others. However, estimates suggest we only know the location of around three per cent of those out there.
Meanwhile, 2017 YZ4 is from the Apollo group of asteroids discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s.
The new 2017 Yz4 was first observed by operators of the Mount Lemmon Survey Observatory, in the Santa Catalina Mountains, northeast of Tucson, Arizona.
NASA says it knows of no significant asteroid that is expected to hit the Earth for at least 100 years.