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Earth To Have Close Encounter With 'Lost' Asteroid This Week: Is There Reason To Worry?

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Another asteroid will fly by near Earth on Tuesday, May 15. The space rock is currently zooming through space at a speed of 28,655 miles per hour.

Lost And Then Found Again Asteroid

Asteroid 2010 WC9, whose size is estimated to range between 197 to 427 feet, will pass at about half the moon's distance from Earth making the flyby one of the closest approaches for an asteroid this size.

The Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first detected the asteroid on November 30, 2010. Astronomers watched it until December 10 until it was too faint for observation. Almost eight years later, astronomers realized that an asteroid they temporarily called ZJ99C60 was actually 2010 WC9 returning.

Closest Encounter With Asteroid This Size In Almost 300 Years

During its closest approach at 6:05 p.m. EDT on May 15, 2010 WC9 will be at 0.53 lunar-distances from Earth. Orbit calculations show that the May 15 pass is Earth's closest encounter for an asteroid this size in almost 300 years.

"2010 WC9 is expected to reach 11th magnitude on the day of closest approach (May 15th), bright enough to be seen with a small telescope. This will be one of the closest approaches by a "large" (~100m) asteroid ever observed," the Northolt Branch Observatories revealed. The nonprofit organization specializes in observation of near-Earth asteroid and small objects in the solar system.

To Fly By Safely

The space rock is larger than the estimated size of the Chelyabinsk meteor before the latter hit Earth's atmosphere in 2013.

When the house-sized asteroid entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk in Russia, it released an energy equivalent to around 440,000 tons of TNT. It also generated a shock wave that damaged buildings and blew out windows over 200 square miles. More than 1,600 people were injured, mostly because of shattered glasses.

The diameter range of 2010 WC9 is estimated to be between 197 and 427 feet, while the size of the Chelyabinsk meteor is around 65 feet. Given its size, the former would have more catastrophic impact if it were to hit Earth.

Fortunately, as with its previous approach, 2010 WC9 will be at a safe distance away from our planet and astronomers expect it to pass safely.

Scientists claims that the odds of a potentially hazardous asteroid hitting Earth over the next century is extremely low. NASA scientists said that the odds of this happening over the next 100 years is just 0.01 percent. Hopefully, the space agency's asteroid defense system will be ready before any asteroid gets dangerously too close to our planet.

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