Massive asteroid set to pass by Earth next month

Scenic view of Queenstown, New Zealand with Milky Way
Photo credit: Getty

An asteroid with a diameter of up to 650 metres is set to whizz by Earth next month. 

The giant rock, named 2000 QW7, will come within 5.3 million kms when it passes by our planet on September 14, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. 

As Live Science notes, that distance is equivalent to around 14 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. And although that might sound like a lot, in space terms it is still considered a relatively close call. 

The asteroid will be travelling at 23,100 km/h and will next pass by the blue planet in 2038, according to CNEOS. 

Although the Earth can breathe a sigh of relief this time around, scientists are already starting to plan for the arrival of another monster rock.

The asteroid Apophis - dubbed the "God of Chaos" - is set to come terrifyingly close to Earth in 2029. The rock will come so close, in fact, that it will be closer than weather satellites.

Apophis will be travelling around 40,000 km/h - that means it will "travel more than the width of the full moon within a minute", according to NASA, and pass within 31,000 km/h of Earth. 

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Space X, drew attention to the asteroid last week when he said that although he wasn't fearful of this rock, it did highlight just how vulnerable our planet is.

"Great name!" he tweeted. "Wouldn't worry about this particular one, but a big rock will hit Earth eventually and we currently have no defence."

Scientists said although they weren't concerned that the asteroid would hit us, it still had a "small chance of impacting Earth".

Rather than be worried, scientists were excited at the prospect of seeing Apophis up close. 

It was rare for an asteroid of this size to pass by Earth so close, NASA said, noting "the international asteroid research community couldn't be more excited".

"The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science," said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Apophis was one of around 2000 potentially dangerous asteroids scientists were aware of.



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