AN ENORMOUS asteroid that measures more than 800 feet across will skirt past Earth on Tuesday evening.
Nasa has issued a “close approach” alert for the mysterious space object – and says it’ll even be joined by a second Earth-skimming asteroid on the same day.
Getty – Contributor Two asteroids will fly past Earth on Tuesday – one in the morning, and one in the evening
The good news is that asteroids regularly pass close to Earth, so there’s no need to panic.
In fact, Nasa has designated 10 “near-Earth objects” as making a “close approach” during the month of November alone.
“As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth,” the US space agency explained.
It’s also important to remember that a “close approach” might not be as close as you think.
Getty – Contributor Asteroids regularly make “close approaches” to Earth, so there’s no need to panic about a mass extinction
The main asteroid on Tuesday is called 2013 CW32, and was (as the name suggests) first spotted in 2013.
It measures an enormous 820 feet across, and is travelling at a very nippy 36,775mph.
It’s due to pass Earth on January 29 at about 6.54pm time, give or take a minute.
And it’s due to skirt us at a fairly safe distance of 3,119,690 miles – about 14 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
There’s actually a second asteroid passing Earth on Tuesday, too – but it’s far smaller.
Asteroid 2019 AN11 measures a less terrifying 170 feet, and is travelling at a much slower (though hardly slow) 18,000mph. The 2019 in its name means it was first spotted this year.
It’ll skirt Earth at a distance of 2,988,529 miles at about 5.50am UK time.
What’s the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?Here’s what you need to know, according to Nasa…
Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it’ll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn’t vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth’s atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)
Sadly it’s very difficult to see asteroids with a telescope, because they’re often very small and faint – with varying levels of reflectiveness.
The best method for amateurs is astrophotography, which involves taking several pictures of the night sky.
It’s possible to then compare the images and then look out for small objects that have changed position.
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