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Asteroid the size of a skyscraper is approaching Earth on Christmas Eve

Asteroid the size of a skyscraper is approaching Earth on Christmas Eve

Named TR54, this 2016 asteroid has an estimated diameter of between 100 meters and 230 meters, according to NASA’s Asteroid Tracker. By the greatest estimate, they are comparable in size to some skyscrapers, such as the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv (238 meters), or about 64 Christmas trees (from the maximum average Christmas tree size to 12 feet, depending on Christmascentral.com).

The asteroid is expected to pass close to the planet on December 24, Christmas Eve, at a distance of approximately 6.5 million kilometers from Earth. For comparison, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is about 384,000 km. Thus, without a telescope, it would be difficult to locate this asteroid in the sky.

This also means that Armageddon will not come during the holiday season. This matches previous predictions from NASA, which estimated that Earth would be free of asteroid impact hazards in the next century.

That’s a good thing, because an asteroid impact is arguably one of the worst possible natural disasters, and humanity has little or no defense against it.

An asteroid smashes into the Earth in this art rendering of an asteroid impact. (credit: PIXABAY)

The last known large asteroid impact occurred on February 15, 2013, when an asteroid exploded in the air over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The asteroid was 17 meters wide, and although no casualties were reported, the shock wave from the explosion smashed the windows of six different Russian cities and forced 1,500 people to receive medical treatment.

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It was only 17 meters long, much smaller than the 2016 TR54.

According to NASA, any asteroid with a diameter of 140 meters or more could have a potentially catastrophic impact if it collides with Earth.

The destructive nature of even the smallest asteroids is well known to experts, as space agencies around the world are monitoring possible catastrophic effects, as well as looking for possible ways to stop them.

One way to stop a potential asteroid impact is to use deflection, which means throwing something to slightly alter the asteroid’s path. The most important of these efforts is Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, as a result of the efforts of NASA and the Applied Physics Laboratory.

Simply put, this means an asteroid hitting a missile fast enough to change its direction by a fraction of a percentage.

The DART mission is humanity’s first real attempt to test an asteroid impact defense, and is expected to be tested later this week when the spacecraft is launched toward the binary asteroid system Didymos.