The largest of the three is about 100 feet across.
Three “huge” asteroids are expected to zip by the Earth this weekend, at a distance that is so cosmically close that some NASA administrators are ever-so-slightly uncomfortable, The Daily Star is reporting.
The first of the three asteroids, Asteroid 2018 VS1, will slip by the Earth on Saturday morning, at about 9:03 a.m. Eastern Time. This will be the fastest-moving of the three, hurtling by the planet at about 6.59 miles per second, according to The Sun, or about 23,724 miles per hour.
16 minutes later, 2018 VR1 will scoot by at a slightly-slower 20,772 miles per hour.
Then, at 1:26 p.m. Eastern Time, the last, and slowest-moving, of the three will skate by. 2018 VX1 will zip past at a comparatively pokey 13,572 miles per hour.
Asteroids skate past the Earth all the time – literally thousands of them per day, although most are scant larger than a grain of sand, and they burn up in the rare event that they enter the atmosphere.
These three, by comparison, are humdingers. The second of the trio, VR1, is the biggest, estimated to be approximately 100 feet across. That’s followed by VS1, estimated to be ever-so-slightly smaller, about 65 feet across. The smallest of the three, VX1, is “only” estimated to be between 26 and 59 feet across.
You may not think that’s exceptionally large, considering that the asteroid that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was approximately 6.2 to 9 miles wide. But consider this: the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, a few years ago is believed to have been approximately 60 feet across. That asteroid – which exploded in the atmosphere and didn’t even hit the ground, caused millions of dollars in damage and injured over a thousand people.
In addition to their size, the closeness to which they’re projected to pass by the Earth is also cause for concern.
Astronomers measure an asteroid’s approach to Earth in so-called Lunar Distance (LD) – the distance between the Earth and the Moon (approximately 246,000 miles, give or take). And according to NASA, any asteroid that passes by at anything less than 20 LD is considered a “close call.”
The furthest of the three, VR1, is passing by at about 12.8 LD. VS1 is skating past at approximately 3.51 LD. And VX1 will scoot past at a perilously close.85 LD.
But You’re Probably Safe
Still, NASA says there’s nothing to worry about. Even if one of their scientists messed up her calculations somewhere, and one of those space rocks were to actually enter the atmosphere, it would very likely burn up before it came close enough to do any damage. And even if it survived entry, there’s a three in four chance that it would land harmlessly in the ocean, considering that three quarters of the Earth’s surface is ocean. And even if it struck land, the odds of it landing in a populated area are small.
So sleep tight Friday night.
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