December 4, 2022

It’s a biggun’

NASA officials have stated that a significantly large asteroid is set to pass Earth this Sunday, with its close proximity classifying it as “potentially hazardous”.

According to best estimates, the asteroid – designated number 388945 (2008 TZ3) – is about 490 metres or just over 1600 feet wide. To put that into context, this means the space rock is more than five times the size of Big Ben (96m).

Of course, we often hear of these ‘near misses’ when an asteroid passes close to the atmosphere and, usually, that’s all it is. However, given the size of this particular bit of extraterrestrial debris, astronomers have been keeping an eye on it.

This comes just a few months on from the last warning, when another object—which was itself half the size of this one— was said to be on course for a near pass and given the same classification.

It is worth clarifying that while we are made aware of numerous ‘close calls’ each year, these are usually millions of miles – if not even further – away in relative terms. In this instance, scientists expect the asteroid to pass Earth at a distance of around four million kilometres on Sunday.

On the other hand, perhaps the most interesting about this particular asteroid is that isn’t even the first time it has traced past our atmosphere. Back in May 2020, the same skyscraper-sized rock passed around 2.75m km from Earth; following this weekend, though, it isn’t expected to return again until May 2163.

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Meanwhile, this isn’t the only space-related event you can expect to be taking place this weekend, as a total lunar eclipse dubbed the ‘super flower blood Moon’ is set to block out the light up the sky in the early hours of Monday morning.

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