Washington, April 28 (IANS) A potentially hazardous giant asteroid is set to zoom past Earth with a 37,400 km/h speed on Thursday, according to NASA.
The asteroid, named 418135 (2008 AG33), has an estimated diameter between 350 to 780 metres, revealed NASA’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
NASA defines any space object that comes within 193 million km of Earth as a “near-Earth object” (NEO) and any fast-moving object within 7.5 million km as “potentially hazardous”.
According to the Centre, as they orbit the Sun, the NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth. However, it explained that a “close” passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.
Asteroid 418135 is thus expected to skim past our planet without any risk of impact, Live Science reported.
At its closest point, the asteroid, travelling at more than 30 times the speed of sound, will come within about 3.2 million kilometres of Earth, which is roughly eight times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.
Asteroid 418135 was first discovered on January 12, 2008, by asteroid surveyors at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter observatory in Arizona and last zipped past Earth on March 1, 2015, according to CNEOS.
The asteroid swings by our planet roughly every seven years, with the next close flyby predicted to come on May 25, 2029.
But it may not be the biggest space rock to hurtle past Earth. Another asteroid, named 467460 (2006 JF42) is touted to be the biggest so far to zoom past Earth, the report said.
The space rock has an estimated diameter between 380 to 860 metres and will be travelling at roughly 40,700 km/h when it passes Earth on May 9.
Several space agencies are already working on ways to possibly deflect asteroids flying straight at Earth.
Last November, NASA launched a spacecraft as a part of its Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, which plans to redirect a non-hazardous asteroid by ramming it off course.
China is also in the early planning stages of an asteroid-redirect mission. By slamming 23 Long March 5 rockets into the asteroid Bennu, the country says it would be able to divert the space rock from a potentially catastrophic impact with Earth, the report said.