Science & Tech

Massive asteroid to zoom past Earth this weekend

Massive asteroid to zoom past Earth this weekend

A huge asteroid is expected to hurtle past Earth on Sunday, according to NASA — and it’s said to be three times bigger than Big Ben.

Travelling at a whopping 18,000 miles per hour, the Apollo-class asteroid called 3361 Orpheus is 984 feet wide and is currently on the US space agency’s “Close Approach” list.

This is because NASA class “Near-Earth Object” (NEO) as anything within 120 million miles of our planet such as asteroids and comets which have been “nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.”

Despite being on this list, it appears there is nothing to worry about since the space rock is expected to zoom past at a distance of 3.5 million miles away from us (so not exactly knocking on our planet’s door).

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If it was a bit closer to home — 4.65 million miles to be exact — then this could be classed as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA).

The asteroid itself was first discovered 39 years ago on 24 April 1982 at the National Astronomical Observatory in Chile.

3361 Orpheus has a longer orbiting time than Earth, getting around the sun every 486 days while seeing Mars, Earth and Venus during this journey.

It’s not the first time, 3361 Orpheus has made a flying visit past Earth, having previously done so in 1937, 1978 and 1982, and is expected to again in 2021 and 2025.

On Sunday evening, 3361 Orpheus asteroid is expected to fly past Earth at 7pm.

It’s not the first time this year that an asteroid has been predicted to zoom past Earth.

Just last month, NASA said an asteroid called 4660 Nereus — which is the same height as the Eiffel Tower — is expected the fly past our planet on December 11.

It’s classed as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” (PHA) and being 1,080 feet-long, the space rock is three times the size of a football pitch and larger than 90 per cent of asteroids.

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