The day after tomorrow, Earth will be buzzed by a fairly large asteroid hurtling through space at more than 30,000 mph. While this may conjure not-so-warm memories of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi The Day After Tomorrow, there's no need to panic.
Unlike in the 2004 movie, in which a massive storm plunged the planet into a new Ice Age, Earth will come away unscathed from next week's cosmic encounter. The asteroid will only approach our planet from a distance of more than 3 million miles, skimming past Earth in a close – but perfectly safe – flyby.
The space rock in question is known as 2013 MD8. As its name suggests it, the asteroid was first discovered in 2013 – and has been carefully monitored by NASA asteroid trackers ever since. Earlier this week, specialists as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, released their data on asteroid 2013 MD8, announcing that the space rock will swing by for a so-called "Earth close approach" on Tuesday.
By all accounts, asteroid 2013 MD8 is a rather sizeable space rock. According to the JPL data, the asteroid is estimated to measure between 124.6 feet and 282 feet in diameter.
"At the upper end of that size estimate, the asteroid is nearly as tall as Big Ben's clock tower in London and is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty in New York," notes the Express.
"This means MD8 is about 20 times as long as a Volkswagen Beetle car and 45 times the length of a Queen-Size bed."The asteroid is expected to make its close flyby on Tuesday shortly after noon, darting past Earth at 12:55 p.m. EST. As an interesting piece of trivia, it's noteworthy to mention that the asteroid flyby will occur just a few hours before the February supermoon. Also known as the "Snow Moon," the full moon of February will rise at 5:46 p.m. EST on Tuesday afternoon, per a previous report from the Inquisitr.
During its close approach to Earth, asteroid 2013 MD8 will whizz past the planet at breakneck speeds of 30,422 mph.Despite its size and incredible velocity, the space rock poses no threat to our planet. As it hurtles through space at dizzying speeds, asteroid 2013 MD8 will only come within 3.6 million miles of Earth.
This distance is equivalent to 0.0387 astronomical units (AU), where one AU represents the average distance between Earth and the sun, estimated to be around 93 million miles. This means that, during its flyby on Tuesday, the asteroid will be 15.09 times more distant than the moon is to our planet.
While that is sensibly vast by terrestrial standards, the asteroid is still classified as a near-Earth object (NEO). As the Inquisitr previously reported, NEOs are celestial bodies, such as comets or asteroids, that orbit anywhere within 1.3 AU from the sun.
The JPL data also showed that the asteroid has a period of 2.95 years. This means that it takes nearly three years to complete one lap around the sun. On its journey through the inner solar system, the asteroid occasionally drops by our corner of space – resulting in close flybys just like the one due on February 19.
In the past century, the space rock has buzzed by Earth a total of 10 times, coming closer than 3.6 million miles only of two occasions. The first one was in 1931 when asteroid 2013 MD8 approached within 2.38 million miles – the closest it's ever gotten and will ever get to our planet.
The second encounter occurred more recently, in 2013 – which incidentally was the year that the asteroid was first spotted. At the time, the space rock passed within 3.52 million miles of Earth.
Over the next 110 years, asteroid 2013 MD8 will swing by our planet 12 more times. The next close encounter with our celestial visitor will occur two years from now, on January 28, 2022. However, the space rock won't come any closer to our planet than it will on Tuesday until the year 2090.
Seventy-one years from now, on June 3, asteroid 2013 MD8 will slip within 2.4 million miles of Earth. That will be its closest approach between now and the year 2130.