Asteroid the size of a house to pass ‘close’ to Earth, Nasa says

The space object is the same size as the one that exploded over Russia in 2013

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The Independent Online

An asteroid the size of a house is set to pass close to the Earth this afternoon, Nasa has said.

The US space agency said that the object was predicted to travel over New Zealand at a distance of roughly 25,000 miles (40,000km) from Earth – just a tenth of the distance between us and the Moon.

That will bring it near to the band of satellites that orbit the planet at around 23,000 miles (36,000km), though not so close as to pose a serious threat.

The asteroid measures around 60 feet (18m) across, a similar size to the one that caused widespread damage and injured around 1,000 people when it exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013.

The same day as the Chelyabinsk asteroid explosion, another larger asteroid flew as close as 17,168 miles (27,630 km) from Earth, well within striking distance of the planet's communications and weather satellites.

 

The asteroid passing today was first detected just a week ago by an observatory in the US, and experts say that it will offer the chance to learn more about how the objects can be tracked more quickly in future.

“While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids,” Nasa said.

The asteroid's closest approach will be over New Zealand at 6.18am on Monday local time (BST 7.18pm on Sunday. Amateur astronomers may be able to see it pass with a telescope, though it will be too dim to pick out with the naked eye.

Nasa said it currently tracks more than 11,000 asteroids in orbits that pass relatively close to Earth.

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