A dense, iron-packed asteroid as little as 40ft across (12m) has the power to wipe out buildings across a 3.6-mile radius (5.79km). And the bad news is one about three times as big is currently barreling towards the Earth at breakneck speeds of 14,808.5mph (6.62km per second). The giant space rock tracked by NASA, officially labelled Asteroid 2018 VX4, is expected to fly by the planet on Sunday, December 9. The space agency said the asteroid’s trajectory matches the parameters of a so-called Earth Close Approach.
The asteroid was dubbed a Near-Earth Object (NEO) as a result of its close brush with the Earth.
NASA’s scientists at the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) believe it will be closest to Earth around 5.06pm GMT (UTC) tomorrow.
The astronomers estimate VX4 measures somewhere in the terrifying range of 157.5ft to 360.9ft (48m to 110m).
At 360ft in diameter, the asteroid is as wide as an American football field is long, and NASA believes space rocks this big are lethal threats.
The space agency said: “Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area.”
On average, hundreds of tonnes of space debris relentlessly slam into the Earth every single day.
Most of this space dust burns up in the atmosphere before it can reach the surface of the planet and cause damage.
However, an interstellar object as big as Asteroid VX4 would easily survive the fiery descent through the atmosphere and impact with brute force.
According to NASA, any Earth-bound asteroid larger than 82ft (25m) is likely to hit the planet and “cause local damage to the impact area”.
With these figures in mind, the thought of VX4 slamming into Earth with full force is a terrifying one.
Thankfully, the odds of the asteroid veering off straight into our home planet are absolutely minimal.
On the cosmic scale of distances, a Close Earth Approach is an incredibly close skim of the planet.
To us humans, however, this could mean millions of miles in space.
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.”
Tomorrow, Asteroid VX4 will approach the Earth within 0.01050 astronomical units (au) of its surface.
One astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun – about 92.3 million miles (149.59 million km).
Asteroid VX4 will significantly shorten this down to just 976,035.98 miles (1.57 million km) from Earth.
This is the equivalent of 4.09-times the distance from the Earth to the Moon – so-called Lunar Distances (LD).
Based on the JPL’s calculations, the asteroid last visited Earth’s corner of space on November 13, 2013, and October 21, 2008.
After tomorrow, the asteroid is not expected to swing past the planet again.