A ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid bigger than London Eye is set to come close to earth

(Image: Shutterstock)(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

A "potentially hazardous" asteroid almost twice the size of the London Eye is set to come within relatively close proximity of the Earth.

Asteroid 2020ND is 170 metres in diameter - which would dwarf the famous London landmark - and will come within just 0.034 astronomical units (AU) of our planet on 24 July. 

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To put that into terrestrial terms, 0.024 of an AU - the distance between our planet and the sun - is roughly 3.2 million miles. That might not sound like a small distance from where you and I are sitting, but in astronomical terms, it's a close call.

So close, in fact, that NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have deemed the rock (which travels at 30,000 miles an hour) a "potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).”

NASA said, “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth."

Currently, all asteroids that are expected to come within 0.05 AU of Earth or less are considered PHAs.

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Asteroid 2020ND's relative closeness also gives it Near Earth Object (NEO) status, meaning it’s ripe for study by NASA and other space agencies.

NASA said, "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.

"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."

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Will it hit Earth?

The asteroid is not expected to collide with Earth, though NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit.

Will I be able to see it?

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as if Asteroid 2020ND will be visible to the naked eye, and even stargazers with relatively powerful telescopes might have trouble spotting it.