An asteroid purportedly the size of a 10-storey building will pass by the Earth at half the distance to the Moon, Nasa has warned.
Asteroid 2019 GC6 will pass within roughly 136,000 miles of Earth on Thursday, safely avoiding a devastating collision.
Nasa warned the orbital trajectory of the asteroid means it may still pose a risk in the future, with estimations suggesting it could be anywhere between 7.5 metres and 30 metres in length.
Shortly after it was discovered on 9 April by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California placed it on a list of asteroids that risk colliding with Earth in the next 100 years.
It is difficult to accurately predict its exact path but it is set to pass close to the Earth again in 2034, 2041 and 2048.
It is not uncommon for rogue space debris to collide with Earth, with tons of cosmic material passing through the atmosphere every day.
The vast majority burns up before it reaches the ground, but every decade or so a larger asteroid collides with Earth.
In 2013, an asteroid 20m in diameter entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia, causing a massive explosion.
A subsequent study calculated it released more than 30 times the explosive energy of the Hiroshima bomb, contributing to more than 1,500 people in the local area seeking medical treatment.
“If humanity does not want to go the way of the dinosaurs, we need to study an event like this in detail,” Professor Qing-Zhu Yin of the University of California said at the time.
“Chelyabinsk serves as a unique calibration point for high-energy meteorite impact events for our future studies.”
But due to their relatively tiny size, asteroids are notoriously difficult to spot and often go undetected until a few days before they are due to pass or collide with Earth.
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited The impact site of the main mass of the Chelyabinsk meteorite in the ice of Lake Chebarkul (PA)
Astronomers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently described it as like spotting a lump of coal in the night’s sky.
“Near-Earth objects [NEOs] are intrinsically faint because they are mostly really small and far away from us in space. Add to this the fact that some of them are as dark as printer toner, and trying to spot them against the black of space is very hard,” said Amy Mainzer, principal investigator of Nasa’s asteroid-hunting mission at the lab.
“If we find an object only a few days from impact, it greatly limits our choices, so in our search efforts we’ve focussed on finding NEOs when they are further away from Earth, providing a maximum amount of time and opening up a wider range of mitigation possibilities.”
Have your say
More World Headlines
- Mexican drug lord El Chapo gets life in prison
- Africans 'twice as likely to be refused a UK visa'
- Tom Steyer: Trump 'has met' criteria for impeachment
- US House votes to condemn Trump's attacks on congresswomen
- Zuma says he received death threat after commission testimony
- I am not a racist - Trump insists
- Turkish sailors held hostage off Nigeria coast
- Shoppers find drug stash in their soap powder box
- Trump tweet row: Don't take the bait, congresswomen say
- WHO on high alert on possible Ebola outbreak
- May condemns Trump's 'go home' remark to congresswomen
- Zuma denies being 'king of corrupt people'
- Trump to congresswoman of colour: Leave the US
- Harrowing heroin addiction grips South Africa
- New York power cut: Supply restored in Manhattan