The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2013 RV9, will make a so-called “Earth Close Approach”. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists have narrowed the passage down to 6.30am GMT (UTC) on Wednesday, February 6. As this happens, Asteroid RV9 will swing past the Earth for the last time this decade. The asteroid last visited Earth’s corner of space in 2018 and 2013 but will reappear as soon as April 2022.
Asteroid RV9 is an Apollo-type space rock first observed by the JPL on September 3, 2013.
NASA’s scientists estimate RV9 measures somewhere in the range of 167.3ft to 360.9ft (51m to 110m) in diameter.
An asteroid in the upper range of that estimate towers over Big Ben’s Elizabeth clock tower in London’s Westminster Palace.
At 360.9ft (110m) it is also roughly the same height as St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Even towards the lower end of the size estimate, the space rock is about 30-times longer than a Queen Size bed.
In other words, about 12.5 Volkswagen Beetle cars, lined in a row, could fit inside of the asteroid.
Thankfully, there is no indication the space rock will slam into our home planet this week.
According to NASA’s orbital calculations, Asteroid RV9 will miss the Earth by more than four million miles (6.8 million km).
This is because Asteroid RV9 is a so-called “Near Earth Object” (NEO).
All NEOs are comets and asteroids with orbital paths that at one point or another come dangerously close to the Earth.
NASA explained: “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.”
But on Wednesday, Asteroid RV9 is only expected to approach the Earth from 0.04574 astronomical units (au).
One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance from the Sun to the Earth.
Asteroid RV9 will trim this distance down to just 4.25 million miles (6.8 million km).
This is equal to nearly 18-times the distance between the Earth and the Moon – 17.8 Lunar Distances (LD).
Asteroid RV9 will complete this flyby at breakneck speeds of more than 13,150mph (5.88km per second).