A giant killer asteroid estimated to be as big as 10 miles wide is heading toward Earth, astronomers are saying. It is moving at such a high rate of speed that its impact, if it were to hit the Earth, would deliver the destructive force of 3 billion nuclear bombs.
The Daily Star reported this week that a massive killer asteroid, one that could be as big as 10 miles across, is headed in Earth's direction, but astronomers have yet to pinpoint its exact trajectory through the Solar System, so estimating if it will actually hit the Earth cannot be done with accuracy. The asteroid, designated 2009ES, is being studiously tracked by the world's astronomers, just in case its orbital path becomes altered and sends it on a collision course with Earth.
The giant asteroid, which was first spotted in 2009 (hence the numerical part of its designation), was detected by astronomer Zhao Haibin using the large telescope at the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, China. Images of asteroid 2009ES, which got its name from the Minor Planet Center, were captured by the 1.2-meter Schmidt telescope camera just last week.
"With the help of our images," Haibin said, "astronomers across the globe have a more accurate moving trajectory of the asteroid."
The Chinese Academy of Science, according to AOL News, estimates that the potentially killer asteroid, as derived from its current path, will pass to within 18.8 Lunar Distances (the distance from the center of the Earth to the center of the Moon) of Earth.
Being able to plot the course of the object -- one of 1,640 near-Earth asteroids, called "minor bodies," that are moving toward Earth -- could become very important should the giant asteroid be found to be coming uncomfortably close to the Earth. A slight deviation in its path could then send the space rock heading directly toward the Earth. Given the size of 2009ES, it is believed the impact would cause an extinction event. Basically, the end of the world.
In fact, it is estimated that an impact by 2009ES would produce the energy equivalent of 3 billion nuclear bombs. According to the Daily Star, the event would render humans extinct, producing an effect equivalent to the event that contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs and created the Chicxulub Crater off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
But, as of now, NASA reports that there are no known asteroids in danger of hitting the Earth at least for a few hundred years. The space agency felt compelled to release a statement in August 2015 to assuage public fears of an impending asteroid impact being generated by doomsayer blogs and end-of-the-world forecasting websites. "NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth," the statement read, "so the probability of a major collision is quite small. In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years."
NASA, the European Space Agency, and other governmental and private industry interests are developing contingency plans to better detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids. Some are also developing methods by which a catastrophic event-producing asteroid might be diverted or redirected (known as "asteroid impact avoidance") from a potential collision with Earth. Such "impact avoidance" methods include nuclear detonation to deflect (as opposed to pulverizing the asteroid into numerous fragments, which could prove far more dangerous to the Earth than one solid projectile), ramming the object, focusing solar energy to produce the Yarkovsky Effect (solar radiation would produce a deviation of course), installing or attaching a rocket engine to the object, and placing an object of sufficient mass to gravitationally pull the target asteroid off its path (called a gravity tractor).
2009ES isn't the only near-Earth asteroid we will have to watch the skies for in the coming years. As Inquisitr reported in early August, a killer asteroid called Bennu, which doomsayers were predicting was on a trajectory with Earth, might actually impact the planet about 150 years from now. Even so, Bennu is nowhere near the size of 2009ES, measuring at just 1,650 feet wide (500 meters).
As reported by Inquistr, the same can be said of Apophis, an asteroid that will make a near-miss pass by the Earth in 2029. Just 325 meters (1,066 feet, or almost four football fields) wide, asteroid Apophis, according to the most recent calculations (per the Minor Planet Center), will miss Earth by less than 25,000 miles.
[Featured Image by solarseven/Shutterstock]