NASA asteroid WARNING: Giant ONE MILE wide asteroid will skim the Earth before Christmas
The colossal asteroid is expected to reach its closest possible distance to Earth three days before Christmas, in the wee hours of December 22. NASA’s scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) expect the space rock, dubbed Asteroid 2003 SD220, to swing by around 1.04am GMT (UTC). The asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 3,018ft to 1.3 miles (920m to 2.1km) in diameter. Hundreds of tonnes of space debris slam into the planet on a daily basis but are stopped by the Earth’s atmosphere.
A rogue asteroid on this scale would pass through the atmosphere unscathed and claim millions of lives if it ever struck the Earth.
According to Dr Bruce Betts of The Planetary Society, an asteroid this large would cause “regional destruction” or even a “global catastrophe”.
The space expert said: “Using the cut-off for asteroid diameter of one meter, there are estimated to be more than half a billion near-Earth asteroids.
“For objects that cause major damage if they hit Earth – larger than about 30 meters) – there are about a million. So far, we are approaching 20,000 found.
“It is easier to find larger objects, so we think we have found more than 90 percent of the asteroids one km and above, but for smaller asteroids still capable of causing major regional damage, we have only found a small percentage.”
The asteroid will make a so-called Earth Close Approach this month but thankfully the odds of it hitting Earth are minimal.
At its closest, the space rock will reach the planet within 0.01890 astronomical units (AU).
One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.5 million km) and describes the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Asteroid SD220 will close this distance down to just 1.7 million miles (2.8 million km).
This is the equivalent of 7.36 Lunar Distances (LD) or 7.36-times the distance between the Moon and Earth.
On the cosmic scale of distances, this is an incredibly close brush with the killer space rock.
NASA said: “About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth's atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface.
"Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area.
"Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth's civilisation comes along.
“Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.”
NASA added asteroid impacts with objects the size of SD220 are an incredibly rare occurrence but can cause “worldwide effects”.