The fearsome asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 GC6, will scrape past the Earth on the morning of Thursday, April 18. NASA’s asteroid trackers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) predict the asteroid will be closest to Earth around 7.41am BST (6.41am UTC). When this happens, the asteroid will come hurtling past our home world at breakneck speeds of more than 12,570mph or 5.62km per second. But just how close does NASA expect the space rock to appear this week?
According to the US space agency, the asteroid is poised to shoot by from a distance of 0.57 Lunar Distances (LD).
One Lunar Distance is the approximate distance from the Earth to the Moon and measures about 238,856 miles or 384,402km.
This means Asteroid GC6 will come almost as close as half the distance to the Moon – 136,147.9 miles (219,108.8km).
But there is no need to sound the alarm bells just yet and the space rock will not fly in-between the Earth and its natural satellites.
READ MORE: How often do asteroids hit Earth?
NASA’s orbital calculations show there is no immediate threat of impact, now, or in the foreseeable future.
The Thursday flyby is, however, the closest the asteroid will ever come to the Earth between April 16, 1983, and September 12, 2106.
Asteroid GC6 is a prime example of a so-called “Near-Earth Asteroid” (NEA) or “Near-Earth Object” (NEO).
NEOs are all asteroids and comets, which occasionally cut into Earth’s orbit of the Sun as they cruise through the inner rings of the solar system.
Many of these deep space impactors originate in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and have been nudged into our corner of space by the planets’ powerful gravitational forces.
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.”
The US space agency estimates GC6 measures somewhere in the range of 42.6ft to 95ft (13m to 29m) in diameter.
At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is comparable in size to three-and-a-half London double-decker buses.
The space rock is also longer than 14 Queen Size beds lined up in a row and seven Volkswagen Beetle cars.
After the asteroid safely passes the Earth on Thursday, the rock will visit Earth again later this year on November 21.
Asteroid CG6 will then approach our planet again in April and December 2026 and will continue to do so until the year 2106.
Are there any asteroids barreling directly at the Earth?
Currently, there are no known asteroids or comets, which threaten to hit the Earth in the foreseeable future.
Asteroids which pose some level of risk and are larger than 460ft (140m) in diameter, are dubbed Potential Hazardous Asteroid (PHAs).
These objects are intently tracked by NASA’s systems at the JPL.
Astronomer Karren Masters, of Haverford College, said: “When an asteroid is found to have an orbit which might cause it to impact the Earth, naturally many more observations are made to try to better constrain the orbit, and these observations often prove that the asteroid will in fact not impact the Earth.”