The speedy asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2017 TJ4, is heading our direction on a “Close Approach” trajectory. At its closest, NASA predicted Asteroid TJ4 will close in on Earth around 12.46pm BST (11.46am UTC) on Saturday, October 5. When this happens, NASA’s asteroid trackers said the space rock will fly by at speeds of around 19,863mph (31,986kph).
What do we know about Asteroid 2017 TJ4?
The asteroid was first spotted flying around the solar system on October 13, 2017.
Since then, astronomers have classified TJ4 as a “Near-Earth Object” or NEO.
All NEOs are comets and asteroids that come flying close to Earth.
Occasionally, NEOs will cross the Earth’s orbit and, even less frequently, will hit the planet.
Asteroid news: The giant space rock will come flying by on Saturday, October 5 (Image: GETTY)
Asteroid news: Interesting facts about asteroids, comets and metoers (Image: GETTY)
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”
Asteroid TJ4 is an Aten-type asteroid, meaning its trajectory is similar to that of Asteroid 2062 Aten.
NASA estimates the space rock measures somewhere in the range of 78.7ft to 177ft (24m to 54m) in diameter.
At the upper end of NASA’s scale, the asteroid is comparable in size to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
About six-and-a-half London double-decker buses could fit across the asteroid and its width is equal to 30 Queen Size beds.
Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth
At the lower end of NASA’s estimate, the space rock measures as much as six Volkswagen Beetle cars.
Any object this big would likely burn up before hitting the ground but could still cause significant damage.
When a 65.6ft-wide (20m) asteroid entered the atmosphere undetected in 2013, it exploded in the atmosphere.
The resulting airblast over Russia’s Chelyabinsk oblast injured more than 1,000 people with shards of glass from blown-out windows.
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Asteroid news: The space rock measures up to 177ft across (Image: GETTY)
Asteroid news: Thankfully, the asteroid will not come close enough to strike Earth (Image: GETTY)
Will Asteroid 2017 TJ4 hit the Earth this weekend?
Despite its fast approach on Saturday, NASA does not expect TJ4 to come close enough to sound the alarm.
At its closest, the asteroid will approach Earth from a distance of around 0.03447 astronomical units.
A single astronomical unit measures the distance between the Earth and the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
This means Asteroid TJ4 will narrowly avoid Earth by just 3.2 million miles (5.15 million km).
On the cosmic scale of distances, this is a near-miss with the space rock.