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Asteroid 2013 WV44 is bigger than ten buses, and it's headed our way

An asteroid larger than ten buses aligned end to end is currently on an interstellar journey, with Earth being its next point of interest. This gigantic space rock, known as 2013 WV44, is set to have a close encounter with our planet, according to information provided by NASA.

The asteroid is estimated to boast a colossal diameter of up to 524 feet (160 meters). This surpasses the heights of iconic structures such as the London Eye, which stands at 394 feet, and Big Ben, at 310 feet.

This enormous rock is expected to grace our sky, in close astronomical terms, on Wednesday at approximately 9am BST.

According to experts, 2013 WV44 is speeding along at an impressive 11.8 km per second. That’s over 26,000 miles per hour – a staggering 34 times the speed of sound!

No cause for alarm from 2013 WV44

Despite its rapid pace and considerable size, there is no cause for alarm. Even at its closest approach, asteroid 2013 WV44 is projected to remain at a safe distance of approximately 2.1 million miles from our planet.

Although this distance is around nine times farther than our Moon, it still earns the asteroid the classification of a near-Earth object (NEO).

NEOs, which can be comets or asteroids, are celestial bodies that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that bring them into the Earth’s neighborhood. They mainly consist of water ice with embedded dust particles. Most of them are the remnants from the solar system formation process about 4.6 billion years ago.

“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago,” said a representative from NASA.

Near-Earth objects (NEOs)

The fascinating cosmic designation of a NEO is applied when a celestial object comes within 1.3 astronomical units (AU) (120.8 million miles) of the sun. Thus, within 0.3 AU (27.8 million miles) of Earth’s orbit.

Given its projected distance of 2.1 million miles from Earth, asteroid 2013 WV44 comfortably fits into this category.

While the asteroid has grabbed attention due to its size and relative proximity, it does not meet the criteria for a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). That status is determined by an asteroid’s potential to make threateningly close approaches to Earth, and also its size.

Specifically, to be labeled a PHA, an asteroid needs to come within 0.05 astronomical units (4.65 million miles) of Earth. It also needs to be larger than 459 feet (140 meters) in diameter.

NASA’s diligent tracking of NEOs is indeed crucial. According to their records, there are 32,254 known near-Earth asteroids in our solar system as of now. The list has grown since last October, when only 30,000 were documented. 

More than 10,000 of these are estimated to be larger than 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter. Another 1,000 are larger than 3,280 feet (1km) in diameter. These figures underscore the importance of keeping a close eye on these celestial travelers.

More about asteroids

Asteroids are rocky, airless remnants left over from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They are primarily located in the asteroid belt. This is a region of space located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. However, asteroids can be found throughout the solar system including near Earth.

Asteroids can vary greatly in size, ranging from small boulders to objects that are hundreds of kilometers in diameter. The largest asteroid in the asteroid belt is Ceres, which is also classified as a dwarf planet. It has a diameter of about 940 kilometers.

Asteroids are made up of different types of rock and metal, and many have craters or grooves. They can be categorized into different types based on their composition:

C-type (carbonaceous) asteroids

These are the most common type, making up about 75% of known asteroids. They are very dark in appearance and are composed of clay and silicate rocks.

S-type (silicate-based) asteroids

These are the second most common type and are composed primarily of stony materials and nickel-iron.

M-type (metallic) asteroids

These are composed mainly of metallic iron and are less common.

Asteroids can have significant scientific and economic value. Scientifically, they offer clues about the early solar system, the origin of life and the origin of water. Economically, asteroids could potentially be mined for precious metals and other resources in the future.

It’s also important to track asteroids because they can pose a threat to Earth. While large impacts are rare, the potential damage is enormous, so astronomers continually monitor Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).


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