SCORES of giant asteroids are on course to hurtle close to Earth before the end of February, according to latest NASA space data.
The asteroids are around 100 metres wide. Some are more than 1km wide and threaten devastating consequences if they were to strike our planet.
Of almost 70 asteroids on the radar most are around 100 metres wide, the size of a double decker bus, and would be capable of causing significant damage.
Experts warn if one of these monsters, some of which travel at up to 70,000 miles an hour, were to hit Earth it could “alter life as we know it”.
Plumes of debris thrown into the atmosphere would change the climate making the planet inhabitable for all life including humans. An impact would still be catastrophic destroying cities and knocking out transport and communication networks.
According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Programme, there are 68 ‘close approaches’ forecast before the end of next month
The next, due on January 3, is the 490-metre wide 2005 YQ96 asteroid currently hurtling through space at more than 30,000 miles per hour.
The biggest to skim the planet will be the mile-wide 2007 EJ asteroid due to throttle past on January 12th at 34,500 miles per hour.
Experts say although it is unlikely any of these will hit the Earth, there is always a chance they may veer off course or explode showering the planet with debris.
Bill Napier, professor of astronomy at the University of Buckinghamshire, said: “If you are talking about a real major impact you are looking at one every few centuries, these are the real show stoppers and in history have sometimes been described as fire from the heavens.
“However the smaller collisions happen more frequently, asteroids of 2km (1.2 miles) can cause a global catastrophe which would exterminate around two thirds of the human race, mainly due to the heat produced.
“There is also the hazard brought by comets, and these occur on much shorter timescales.
“It the Earth passes through the tail of a comet it will generate a massive plume of smoke, and this could be a civilization-stopper.”
It just takes one asteroid to completely destroy life, not just humanity, but all species
Grigorij Richters, co-founder of Asteroid Day
He said: “If the event had taken place 6.5 hours later Berlin would have been in the object’s path and that would have changed the path of civilisation.
“Our challenge is to find these things but it is looking like a piece of charcoal in the dark.
“We have technology to deflect asteroids using lasers, this is the real deal, perhaps the reason we haven’t heard from other civilisations in space is because they didn’t pass the asteroid test.
“Dinosaurs were almost certainly killed off by an asteroid.”
NASA said it is aware of 1,552 “potentially hazardous” asteroids (PHAs) in outer space which show an orbit dangerously close to swiping Earth.
A spokesman 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.
“This ‘potential’ to make close Earth approaches does not mean a PHA will impact the Earth.
“It only means there is a possibility for such a threat.
“By monitoring these PHAs and updating their orbits as new observations become available, we can better predict the close-approach statistics and thus their Earth-impact threat.”
Large Asteroids to Flyby Earth in January Through March. Should Humans Worry?
Asteroids are headed in Earth’s direction and with most of them about as wide as a double-decker bus, a collision would most likely result in significant damage. However, while experts warn against the potential dangers of these asteroids, they also say that it is unlikely that these will veer off course and hit the planet.
According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there will be 43 asteroids flying close to Earth in January and 25 in February. In March, the number further drops to 15. The biggest threat for January is the asteroid 2007 EJ slated to closely approach the planet on Jan. 12. With a maximum diameter of nearly 1 mile, the asteroid is traveling at around 34,500 miles per hour.
The next-biggest asteroid threat for the first month of the year is the 1991 VE. It features a diameter of 0.87 miles and is expected to skim past the planet on Jan. 17. On Jan. 15 and 23, 0.68-mile wide asteroids will be flying by, the 2014 UF206 and the 2062 Aten, respectively.
At 0.75 miles wide, the 2003 YK118 will follow in Feb. 27. On the same day, the biggest asteroid threat for the quarter, the 1.4-mile wide 2000 EE14 can be expected. For March, the biggest an asteroid will get will be the 2002 GM2, which measures 0.68 miles in diameter. It’s scheduled to come close to Earth on March 3.
The 2000 EE14 will also not only be the biggest for the quarter but it will also be flying by the closest, coming in up to nearly 17 million miles within the proximity of the Earth’s center.
Alarmed that about a million undetected asteroids are flying around in space right now, scientists launched Asteroid Day to raise awareness and prevent the disaster that happened 65 million years ago from happening as much as possible.
According to NASA, the agency is aware of more than 1,500 PHAs or potentially hazardous asteroids. These are defined using parameters that measure how big of a potential an asteroid has for dangerously coming close to the planet. But just because an asteroid has a high potential doesn’t mean that it will impact Earth. The measure of potential is there to simply gauge just how big the possibility of a threat is. PHAs are constantly monitored to improve predictions for close-approach statistics, which in turn improves predictions for threat and impact.