NASA issues 'near-Earth' warning as asteroids approach

The rapid approach of three rogue asteroids has prompted NASA to issue a warning about 'near-Earth objects'.

The first asteroid, some 17m in length, has just made its way past us at about 4:20pm NZDT, barrelling through the cosmos at a speed of 7380km/h. Labelled 2019 AT6, it came within 3.2 million km of our planet, which might not sound particularly close but was enough for NASA to list it as a 'near-Earth object'.

The second asteroid, 2019 AM8, is far larger, calculated to be about the size of a blue whale. It's going double the speed of the first object, about 40,555km/h, and is expected to pass Earth at 5:03am on Wednesday morning NZDT. It will come about as close as the first one, which is roughly eight and a half times the distance between Earth and the moon.

Asteroid number three, called 2019 AG7, is the biggest of the trio with a diameter of 51m - the height of the leaning tower of Pisa. Travelling at 24,333km/h, it will get much closer than the previous two, scraping past within 1.53 million km of Earth, at 11:43am on Wednesday NZDT.

Even relatively small asteroids can cause large amounts of damage should they crash into Earth. In February 2013, a meteor measuring 20m wreaked havoc in the Russian city of Chelyabinski, injuring more than 1500 people.

January is shaping up to be an asteroid-heavy month, with as many as 12 expected to fly past Earth by the end of the month.