NASA astronomers warn that if the monster space rock crashes into Earth it would produce an explosion more powerful than the biggest nuclear weapon ever tested
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A huge 430ft asteroid is hurtling towards Earth’s orbital path, NASA has warned – saying it is making “close approach” to our planet.
Nearly the same size as Blackpool Tower and twice as large as Big Ben, astronomers estimate that if the asteroid were to hit the Earth, the impact would produce the equivalent energy to 77 megatons of TNT.
This is 1.5 times as powerful as the Tsar Bomba, the biggest nuclear weapon ever tested.
The course of the mega-asteroid is mapped by NASA’s register of all space debris.
Discovered by American astronomer Carolyn S. Shoemaker at Palomar Observatory on 28 November 1994, the enormous space rock has been designated 1994 WR12.
For now, 1994 WR12 is set to pass us at a distance of 3.8 million miles away on Monday – but experts say that an asteroid entering our atmosphere is inevitable at some point.
When that happens, Professor Alan Duffy, director of the Space Technology and Industry Institute, urged people not to be too curious.
Speaking to the I’ve Got News For You, he said: “I would say the best advice is, for goodness sake, do not look at this thing.
“I mean, it‘s going to be hard not to – the brightness of the glare from these objects burning up in the atmosphere.
“That‘s actually what caused a lot of the injuries in Chelyabinsk (a meteor strike in Russia in 2013), people not unreasonably looked up at this enormous burning fireball in the sky, whose brightness was essentially that of the Sun by the time it finally erupted, that caused a lot of retina damage – so make sure you’re not looking right at it.”
However all hope is not lost for humanity if another asteroid was set to make an even closer approach to our planet.
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DART, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test, is a pilot of a new technology to prevent future asteroid collisions such as the type that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The scheme is designed to “punch” an asteroid off course and is the first demonstration of a “kinetic impactor technique” – essentially a high-powered gun – which is designed to change the motion of an asteroid in space.