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An asteroid that could be as big as the CN Tower will hurtle past Earth this weekend
This file photo shows the asteroid 243 Ida and its moon Dactyl. (NASA)
TORONTO -- An asteroid potentially larger than the CN Tower is set to hurtle past Earth on Saturday.
But don’t run to your anti-asteroid bunker just yet -- it’ll be passing us from a safe distance of more than five million kilometres away.
That’s more than 13 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
The asteroid’s trajectory is being tracked by the Centre for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), an organization dedicated to tracking asteroids, comets and other space objects that come close to the Earth -- in cosmic terms, at least. These objects are called near-Earth objects (NEOs), and they zoom past us on a daily basis. Most are relatively small, but sometimes a much larger chunk of space rock decides to cruise near us.
Our upcoming visitor, known as 2002 NN4, is at least 250 metres in diameter, according to CNEOS, but could be up to 570 metres.
That means the asteroid, which is travelling through space at more than 11 kilometres per second, is either just a little wider than the height of the Golden Gate Bridge, or is as wide across as the CN Tower.
NASA estimates its size at 320 metres, around the length of a large sports stadium.
According to NASA, any object larger than 150 metres that passes within 7.5 million kilometres of Earth is considered potentially hazardous.
The asteroid was first discovered in 2002 by the the Linear Near Earth Asteroid Research near Socorro, N.M.
Its orbit will cross closest to ours on Saturday. According to CNEOS, the asteroid last passed by Earth in 2016, the data shows, but was a whopping 33.5 million kilometres away from us at the time.
Saturday’s visit will be the closest 2002 NN4 has passed by the Earth since 1965, when it sped by the Earth with just a little more than one million kilometres of room to spare.
According to NASA, another, much smaller asteroid -- about the size of a passenger plane -- will be passing by on the same day.
Most NEOs that are on a path to actually collide with the planet will burn up in our atmosphere -- the way one large object did over the Bering Sea in December of 2018, in a fiery explosion.