Asteroid bigger than Eiffel Tower and worth £3.5 billion to skim Earth’s orbit

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Nasa have called the asteroid “potentially hazardous” as it hurtles 4.6 million miles from Earth, while scientists have said it is so large it could wipe out much of the UK with a direct hit

A huge asteroid is set to hurtle past the Earth on Friday
This illustration shows an asteroid burning up in Earth’s orbit, but this weekend’s pass poses no threat to our planet, says Nasa

A massive asteroid described as “potentially hazardous” by Nasa is set to skim Earth’s orbit

The space rock is 1,000 feet long, making it bigger than the Eiffel Tower, but there’s no need to worry – Nasa has said it poses no danger to Earth.

The 4660 Nereus asteroid has, however, been called “potentially hazardous” because it will pass within 4.65 million miles of our planet.

Discovered in 1982, it is about 20 feet taller than Paris’ Eiffel Tower and is travelling at 14,719mph. It is estimated to contain $4.7 billion (£3.5 billion) worth of nickel, iron, and cobalt.

This will be the nearest it has come to the Earth since it was first seen almost 40 years ago.

The asteroid is being described as “potentially hazardous” by NASA
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Image:

Getty Images)

Dr Franck Marchis, astronomer at the SETI Institute and chief scientific officer at Unistellar, told The Sun : “Its orbit could be deflected by various things such as an encounter with another asteroid or a planet like Venus. Any deviation could be an issue.

“It’s like if you have an evil neighbour, it’s in your interests to know where they are and what they’re doing.”

If an asteroid of this size ever hit the UK – in Coventry, for example – it would wipe out most of the Midlands and cause damage from Leeds to Southampton, said Dr Marchis.

It is due to pass 4.65 million miles from Earth which is about 10 times further away than the Moon.

And it could be visible with clear skies from the UK at around 2.50pm on Friday.

Professor Martin Barstow, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Leicester, told LeicestershireLive : “Collectively, asteroids do pose a potential threat, as the dinosaurs found out 63 million years ago.

“Scientists are interested in groups of asteroids for this reason and it is vital that we track them, because one day we might find one that could cause a problem, although that prospect is unlikely.

“The things that we are really scared about are the things we don’t yet know anything about.

“That’s why we have initiatives to search space to find these objects and the Double Asteroid Redirect Mission to help protect us in the event that one might collide with Earth.

“As part of this mission, last month NASA launched a spacecraft the size of a refrigerator, sending it on a crash course with an asteroid in 2022.

“This intentional self-destruction will tell us if slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid is enough to save Earth in the future if a massive space rock is headed our way.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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