The speedy asteroid stands taller than Big Ben’s clocktower and is headed our way on a “Close Approach” trajectory. NASA expects the asteroid to close-in on Earth around 2.19am BST (1.19am UTC) on Sunday, September 22. During the approach, the asteroid will be flying at speeds of 8.19km per second or 18,320.51mph (19,484kph). NASA has dubbed the large space rock Asteroid 2019 QZ1.
What do we know about the Asteroid 2019 QZ1?
Asteroid QZ1 is an Apollo-type Near-Earth Object or NEO trapped within the inner solar system.
The asteroid crosses Earth’s orbit in a fashion similar to Asteroid 1862 Apollo.
NEOs are all asteroid and space rocks that come close to Earth on their orbits of the Sun.
NASA said: “Some asteroids and comets follow orbital paths that take them much closer to the Sun and therefore Earth – than usual.
“If a comet or asteroid’s approach brings it to within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun, we call it a near-Earth object.”
Asteroid QZ1 was first observed in our system on August 20.
Since then, a total of 12 observations have helped NASA calculate the rock’s size, speed and orbit.
NASA estimates the asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 187ft to 426.5ft (57m to 130m) in diameter.
At the upper end of that estimate, the asteroid stands taller than St Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben’s clocktower in London.
An object this big could cause considerable damage if it struck the planet.
Will asteroid QZ1 hit the planet later tonight?
Thankfully, based on NASA’s calculations, there is no risk of the asteroid slamming into Earth at full speed tonight.
At its closest, the asteroid will approach the planet from a distance of 0.03198 astronomical units.
A single astronomical unit measures about 93 million miles (149.6 million km) – the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
In other words, the asteroid will miss us tonight by more than 2.9 million miles (4.78 million km).
The distance is roughly equal to 12.45 times as far away as the Moon is.
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.”
After tonight’s flyby, the space rock is not expected to approach Earth again.