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Asteroid as big as Salisbury Cathedral set to pass Earth on Christmas Day


The peak of the festive time of year will see a visitor from space pass by Earth. The asteroid named 501647 (2014 SD224) is a huge space rock, measuring roughly 123 meters in size.

 

At that length, it almost perfectly matches the height of the Salisbury Cathedral.

 

The asteroid will swing by Earth on December 25 at the astronomical speed of 10 kilometers per second, or 36,000 kilometers per hour.

 

Asteroid 501647 will swing by at a very safe distance, however.

 


Data from NASA shows the asteroid will fly by at 3,036,775 kilometers from our planet, almost eight times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

 

Nonetheless, that is close enough for NASA to consider it a near Earth object (NEO).

 

NEOs are remnants of the solar system and as such NASA can use them to study the history of our host star and its orbiting planets.

 

NASA said on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “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 neighborhood.

“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."

 

While the asteroid will definitely miss Earth, every now and again an asteroid of similar size does collide with our planet.

 

In 1908, a small asteroid exploded over Siberia’s Tunguska which ruined woodlands across 800 miles after it went undetected by experts.

 

The blast was so powerful it was equivalent to 30 megatons of TNT at an altitude of 10 to 15 kilometers (6.2 to 9.3 miles).

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