A giant asteroid is set to fly past the Earth the day after Christmas, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS.)
Fortunately, there is no chance that the space rock—known as 310442 (2000 CH59)—will strike our planet. At its closest approach it will come within 4.5 million miles of our planet, or about 19 times the Earth-moon distance.
This close approach will take place on December 26 at 07:54 a.m. UTC, or 2:54 a.m. EST, CNEOS data shows.
Based on its brightness, the asteroid is estimated to measure between 919 and 2,034 feet in diameter, making it bigger than One World Trade Center in New York—the tallest building the United States—which stands at a height of 1,776 feet.
The data also shows that the asteroid will speed past the Earth at around 27,500 miles per hour.
Scientists know CH59’s orbit around the sun very well and projections indicate that it has no chance of colliding with our planet in the next century or so.
However, there is a small chance that the space rock may cross Earth’s orbit over the course of several centuries or millennia. As a result, researchers will continue to monitor how its orbit evolves in order to better predict its future trajectory.
Any comet or asteroid whose path around the sun takes it within 121 million miles of the star and 30 million miles of our own planet’s orbit is defined as a “near-Earth-object. CH59 falls into this category.
The space rock is also defined as “potentially hazardous” for two reasons: 1) it is estimated to measure more than 460 feet in diameter and 2) it is predicted to come within 0.05 astronomical units (around 4.6 million miles) of Earth.
In total, scientists currently know of about 25,000 NEOs which are estimated to measure more than 460 feet in diameter. However, CNEOS director Paul Chodas suggests that there are likely to be many more out there as we have only discovered around 35 percent of the total figure.
Of the 25,000 known NEOs, around 5,000 are considered to be potentially hazardous, Chodas told Newsweek.
CH59 is one of 10 NEOs which will fly past Earth this Christmas week, according to NASA. But CH59 is by far the largest with all of the rest measuring less than 460 feet in diameter.
Nevertheless, all these NEOs—with the exception of one—will come closer to the Earth than CH59 during their approaches. For example, 2019 WB7—which makes its closest approach today—will come within “just” 660,000 miles of our planet, or around three times the Earth-moon distance.