TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – “The Beast” is coming! That’s the nickname astronomers have given to an asteroid that will nearly sideswipe Earth this Sunday, reports Space.com.
Near-Earth asteroid 2014 HQ124 will be a mere 777,000 miles at its closest approach to our planet, that’s just over 3 times the distance from the Earth to the moon; a close shave by cosmic standards.
Observers assure us that there is no chance of a collision, but they do say this fly-by illustrates the danger of a meteor strike.
2014 HQ124 is 1,100 feet wide and is traveling about 31,000 mph, relative to Earth. If it was on a collision course, the planet’s gravity would actually increase its speed to about 40,000 mph at impact.
“This one would definitely be catastrophic if it hit the Earth,” asteroid impact expert Mark Boslough, of Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, said during a webcast produced by the online Slooh community observatory.
“If it hit a city, it would definitely wipe out an entire metropolitan area,” he added.
If 2014 HQ124 is one solid piece of rock, it’ not certain what the asteroid is made of, the impact would unleash an explosion with a yield of about 2,000 megatons.
“You’d end up with a crater about 3 miles across,” Boslough said. “An event like that would break windows over 100 kilometers away.”
Astronomers reckon they’ve discovered about 95 percent of the potential “civilization-enders” near us. But they warn there are probably more than 1 million near-Earth asteroids at least 100 feet wide, and less than 1 percent of them have been discovered.
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