An asteroid the size of a bus will skim past Earth today, but experts have said there is no cause for alarm.
The asteroid, called 2024 DW, is expected to approach within 140,000 miles of our planet today, even closer than the Moon.
It is estimated to be around 42 feet in diameter, which is longer than a London bus and about half the size of a blue whale.
When 2024 DW passes near Earth, it will travel at a speed of just over 40,000 miles per hour, about 50 times the speed of sound.
But despite its proximity to Earth, it should not pose a threat to our planet.
The asteroid, called 2024 DW, is expected to approach within 225,000 kilometers of our planet on Thursday, even closer than the Moon (artist’s impression of an approaching space rock)
It is estimated to be around 42 feet in diameter, which is longer than a London bus (stock image pictured) and about half the size of a blue whale.
As its name suggests, asteroid 2024 DW was discovered this year by astronomers working at the Mount Lemmon Survey, a project based in Tucson, Arizona.
NASA classifies it as one of the next approaches on its online tracker, which collects the next objects that are getting closer and closer to Earth.
But according to Dr Minjae Kim, a space expert at the University of Warwick’s astronomy department, it doesn’t pose a “real danger” like most asteroids approaching us.
“Although the probability of a direct impact on Earth is reduced due to Earth’s vast oceans, the possible impact of an asteroid remains a serious concern,” he added.
Because the Moon is in an elliptical orbit of the Earth (one that is not perfectly circular), its distance from us changes gradually.
According to TheSkyLive, the moon is currently 249,768 miles (401,964 km) away from Earth right now.
That means that asteroid 2024 DW will be just over half the distance between the Earth and the Moon today.
The photo shows the orbit of asteroid 2024 DW (white) in relation to that of Earth (light blue) and Mars (red).
Due to its relative proximity to Earth, the asteroid is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO) and is being tracked by the space agency.
An OCT is defined as such when it is 1.3 astronomical units (AU) (120.8 million miles) from the Sun and, therefore, 0.3 AU (27.8 million miles) from the orbit of the earth.
“OCTs are comets and asteroids that have been pushed by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to penetrate the vicinity of Earth,” NASA stated.
“Composed primarily of water ice embedded with dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system, while most rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. .
“Scientific interest in comets and asteroids is largely due to their status as relatively unaltered remnants of the formation process of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.”
An asteroid is also defined as “potentially hazardous” if it is within 0.05 astronomical units (4.65 million miles) from Earth and is more than 459 feet (140 meters) in diameter.
Fortunately, 2024 DW is too small to meet the second specification, so it is not considered potentially dangerous, but its proximity remains a concern.
On average, Earth is hit by a rock the size of a football field every 5,000 years and a civilization-ending asteroid every one million years, according to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program.
“Of course, if a major asteroid threat were imminent, the public would be well informed by NASA’s Planetary Defense,” Dr. Kim said.
“In the event that an asteroid collided with Earth, NASA would notify a close encounter or possible impact.”
According to a 2017 study, only asteroids measuring at least 18 meters (nearly 60 feet) in diameter are potentially lethal if headed toward Earth.
The largest known asteroid in the entire Solar System, Ceres, is 580 miles in diameter (more than 3 million feet), large enough for humans to live on.
Fortunately, the chances of Ceres hitting Earth are low because its orbit is further away, between Mars and Jupiter, and does not intersect that of Earth.
Unfortunately, there are some types of space rocks that could be difficult or impossible to deflect with any man-made object, a new study suggests.
“Rubble pile” asteroids, like Itokawa, about 2 million kilometers away, are made up of loose boulders and rocks that have clumped together under the influence of gravity, making many of them empty space.
Such an asteroid would act as a “space cushion,” absorbing any energy from the impact and continuing its trajectory, the study’s authors said.