The giant space rock, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2016 FU12, will make a so-called “Earth Close Approach”. NASA’s scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) estimate FU16 will swing by on Wednesday, February 27. The asteroid will reach its closest possible distance to our home world sometime around 4.09pm GMT (UTC). When this happens, NASA predicts Asteroid FU12 will break the speed of sound 15 times.
Asteroid FU12 is estimated to have a velocity relative to Earth of around 5.32km per second or 11,699.2mph.
NASA’s JPL further estimates the asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 36ft to 82ft (11m to 25m) in diameter.
This means the imposing space rock could be as big as 12 Queen Size beds stacked in a row or six Volkswagen Beetle cars lined up.
Compared to a London double-decker bus, the asteroid is almost three times as long.
Even at 36ft, the asteroid is pretty impressive and measures about six-times the height of an average refrigerator or Twin Size bed.
But the risk of Asteroid FU12 slamming into the Earth tomorrow is pretty minimal.
When the asteroid approaches the Earth it will fly by at a distance equal to about 15 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
So why is NASA paying attention to the asteroid? Despite its seemingly safe passage, Asteroid FU12 is a so-called “Near-Earth Object” (NEO).
This means the space rock’s orbit occasionally crosses paths with or cuts into the Earth’s journey around the Sun.
When NEOs swing around our planet, they are tracked and analysed by NASA’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the JPL and California Institute of Technology.
The Centre’s asteroid findings are coordinated with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office in the event a space rock should threaten the Earth.
NASA said: “In the event of a predicted impact such as for 2008 TC3, CNEOS predicts the impact time, location and geometry.
“Hypothetical impact scenarios are developed for use at the Planetary Defense Conferences and similar exercises at other meetings.”
Tomorrow, Asteroid FU12 is expected to swing past the Earth from a “nominal distance” of 0.03953 astronomical units.
One astronomical unit in space is the distance between the Earth and the Sun and measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
Asteroid FU16 will shorten this distance down tomorrow to just 3.67 million miles (5.9 million km).