The space rock known as 2020 TK3 is working its way towards Earth’s orbit. The asteroid will zoom past our planet on Saturday, October 17, coming almost as close to Earth as the Moon is. According to NASA, the asteroid will come within 1.3 lunar distances of Earth.
One lunar distance is the space between our planet and the Moon.
The asteroid will safely swing by Earth, before it makes its way to the orbits of the closer planets to the Sun – Mercury and Venus – before flying back out behind Earth and then Mars.
Observations revealed that the asteroid is travelling at a staggering 11.1 kilometers per second.
This translates to almost 40,000 kilometers per hour, meaning it could get around Earth in almost exactly an hour.
However, the space rock is a mere 11 meters in size which means that it does not pose a threat to Earth.
If it were to be on a collision course with out planet – which it is not – it would simply burn up in the atmosphere, appearing as a fireball or a shooting star.
Nonetheless, its close approach to our planet means NASA has designated 2020 TK3 as a near Earth object (NEO).
NASA has said: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“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.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
“As the primitive, leftover building blocks of the solar system formation process, comets and asteroids offer clues to the chemical mixture from which the planets formed some 4.6 billion years ago.
“If we wish to know the composition of the primordial mixture from which the planets formed, then we must determine the chemical constituents of the leftover debris from this formation process – the comets and asteroids.”