JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Surprise! Just 4 days after it was discovered, an asteroid is set to pass precariously close between Earth and the Moon tonight packing the kinetic energy of about five nuclear warheads.
Astronomers at an observatory at the top of a volcano mountain on Maui spotted the 13 to 46 foot wide space rock called, 2017 BX, orbiting at 16,600 miles an hour on Friday.
An object this size would create a shock wave with considerable damage if it hit the planet. Small fragments could hit the ground.
Fortunately the asteroid will not strike. NASA is tracking its trajectory and estimates it will pass tonight at 11:45 pm 162,252 miles from Earth.
But most objects smaller than 33 feet typically burn up in the atmosphere.
Bigger threats come from much larger asteroids. A 600 foot deep crater in Arizona was the result when a meteorite 192 feet wide struck 50,000 years ago.
Dinosaurs were wiped out when a huge asteroid smashed into Earth 65 million years ago
The greatest risk associated with global catastrophes result from impacts of objects larger than 1 kilometer.
Scientists estimate an asteroid larger than 1-2 kilometers could set off changes to the global climate which lead to loss of life. The frequency of these events take place several times per million years on average.
The next time this object will close to Earth will be on January 12, 2070, when it’ll pass 37.9 lunar distances away.