'The Beast' will fly by Earth late Saturday, June 7, until the morning of Sunday, June 8, says Megan Gannon of Space.com. The news editor reports the importance in the article titled “Huge 'Beast' Asteroid to Fly By Earth Soon.”
Officially designated asteroid 2014 HQ 124, the asteroid is the size of a football stadium and poses no threat of hitting earth. NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, a space telescope, discovered the asteroid on April 23 through sky-mapping.
It's about the size of 1,100 feet (352 meters) across and will be traveling up to 32,000 mph (14 km/s), according to NASA's Asteroid Watch program.
Located in Pasadena, Cali., the Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists say the asteroid will be closest at 1:56 a.m. EDT while traveling at 17 times faster than a high-speed rifle. However, The Beast will be three lunar distances away, which is 3 times the distance to the Earth and Moon. A lunar distance is 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers).
Bob Berman, a member of the online Slooh community observatory and astronomer, finds it a little "disconcerting" that it took the science community to locate the asteroid so large. Berman held a preview on Thursday and noted it is "at least 10 times bigger, and possibly 20 times, than the asteroid that injured a thousand people last year in Chelyabinsk, Siberia."
The potential problem factor climbs when you notice the impact would be measured "in H-bomb type megatons," which is higher than the atomic bombs dropped during World War II. If the asteroid were to hit the earth, global destruction would be imminent.
Timing is interesting when looking at the fact D-Day's 70th anniversary is only two days beforehand.
While isn’t necessary, Mike Wall, a senior writer to Space.com, notes Mark Boslough, of Sandia National Laboratories located in New Mexico, offers a pretty grim reality. “If it hit a city, it would definitely wipe out an entire metropolitan area” and “you’d end up with a crater about 3 miles across.”
Fans of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, may be imagining a destroyed Sunnydale at this point.
Where's the creaky sign?
In the article, “Big 'Beast' Asteroid Flies by Earth Sunday: What Would Happen if It Hit Us?,” Wall observes that the true impact is unknown since composition and solid state remains a mystery.
NASA claims to have found the over 90 percent of the asteroids that are mountain-sized or greater (.6 miles or 1 km), while smaller ones remain hidden.
Scientists estimate there are at least at least 15,000 near-Earth asteroids around 460 feet (140 m) wide. And 70 percent, or 10,500, are hidden from telescope discovery.
Alarmingly, roughly 1 million near-Earth objects with a 100-foot diameter (30 m) orbit the space around the planet. And of those 1 million, only 10,000 have been identified.
Thankfully, this time the world remains safe.