According to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), a giant asteroid named 2003 AF23, measuring approximately 180-390 meters in diameter or about as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall, will barrel past earth at 6.9 million kilometres on January 3. The asteroid is currently hurtling through space at an average velocity of 32,400 miles per hour (54,000 kilometers per hour).
The giant asteroid is making its way toward the planet’s vicinity. The near-Earth asteroid (NEA) is it is expected to complete its flyby on Sunday. The asteroid is not expected to collide with Earth during its upcoming flyby and will only get as close as 4.3 million miles (6.9 kilometers) away from the planet’s surface when it passes by.
2003 AF23 is categorized as an Aten asteroid, as per NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Asteroids belonging to this category have Earth-crossing orbits that intersect with that of the planet at a certain point. Fortunately, 2003 AF23 has not been included in the European Space Agency’s Risk List, which means it does not pose a risk to Earth.
Three small NEOs to als fly past the Earth in early January, NASA
Moreover, three additional, small Near Earth Objects (NEOs) will also fly past the Earth in the first days of January. This would include the 15-metre asteroid 2019 YB4 which will fly by at a safe distance of 6.4 million kilometres. This would be followed by two more chunks of cosmic debris in the form of the 15-meter 2020 YA1 and the 21-meter 2020 YP4, which will pass by at 1.5 and 2.1 million kilometers respectively, the next day.
In November last year, the NASA had confirmed that an asteroid discovered in the year 2000 and said to be 0.51km in diameter and as tall as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa of Dubai, was set to pass within 4,302,775 km of Earth on November 29. However, NASA has cleared that there was zero chance of the asteroid actually hitting our planet.