A relatively large asteroid --one thought to be bigger than the Statue of Liberty -- will shoot past Earth in a close approach Thursday, NASA has announced. The celestial visitor is an Apollo-type asteroid dubbed 2010 AE30. It has been on NASA's radar for a little over a decade.
The space rock will be performing its closest flyby of Earth in 13 years. It will be safely passing by the planet at a distance of about 2.8 million miles, which is roughly 11.8 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
The asteroid is expected to approach Earth in the late hours of Thursday evening. NASA predicts that the rock will reach its closest point to the planet at 7:35 p.m. ET. At that time, the object will be traveling through space at a speed of 27,500 mph relative to Earth.
Thursday's encounter will be the latest in a long string of close approaches for asteroid 2010 AE30. According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the wayfaring space rock frequently visits Earth as it circles the sun once every 1.4 years. Its orbital path also brings it close to Venus and Mars. The rock typically passes through the inner solar system in its journey around the Sun.
As an Apollo asteroid, 2010 AE30 follows an orbit that allows it not only to approach Earth but also to occasionally cross the planet's orbit. And, that's exactly what the JPL team anticipates will happen Thursday.
Based on size estimates published by NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, 2010 AE30 measures at least 167 feet in diameter and can be up to 360.8 feet wide at places.
"An object this big would tower over the Statue of Liberty in New York and match 75 Queen-Size beds in a row," noted British media outlet Express, in reference to a similarly-sized asteroid that flew past Earth in early June, as reported by The Inquisitr at the time.
"Even towards the lower end of NASA's estimate, the rock would be big enough to cause widespread damage."That won't be the case for Thursday's close encounter. NASA assures that the asteroid will harmlessly fly past Earth, without posing any threat to the planet or its inhabitants.
The asteroid previously visited Earth in early July 2017. That time, it came within 5 million miles of the terrestrial surface. Before that, the rock swung by Earth in mid-January 2010, coming as close as 4.6 million miles to the planet. The last time 2010 AE30 wandered closer to Earth than the 2.8-million-mile marker set for Thursday was in early July 2007, when it managed to creep in some 2.2 million miles from Earth.
The asteroid will return in 2027, 2030, and 2037. However, these future flybys will carry the rock significantly farther away from the planet up until the year 2084, when the object is expected to skim Earth from just 837,000 miles away.