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Massive 460ft-wide ‘Christmas asteroid’ is hurtling past Earth this week

Joe Harker

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Massive 460ft-wide ‘Christmas asteroid’ is hurtling past Earth this week

Featured Image Credit: ESA

Even chunks of rock hurtling through space are getting in on the festive fun as a massive 'Christmas' asteroid that's about 460 feet wide (140 metres) will be passing Earth this week.

First things first with any story about a massive asteroid you should be watching out for, it's not going to hit Earth and wipe us all out before we've had time to open our presents.

It'll pass by our planet at about twice the distance the moon is away from us, so barring some sort of astronomically bad luck it poses us zero danger whatsoever.

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With the good news that we're not all about to be arbitrarily wiped out thanks to a massive chunk of space rock striking our planet out of the way we can get back to telling you how to spot it.

Don't worry, the asteroid isn't going to hit us. Credit: ESA
Don't worry, the asteroid isn't going to hit us. Credit: ESA

As the nickname might suggest, the asteroid is popping up at around the festive period, although despite being called a 'Christmas asteroid' you'll want to make sure you see it before the big day.

If you stick a telescope on your Christmas list and hope Santa brings you something that'll help you spot it that'll sadly be too late.

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The European Space Agency (ESA) has said the asteroid is due to pass by Earth on 15 December, though it'll be people living in the Southern Hemisphere who'll get the best chance to spot the thing.

Still, most places on Earth will have a chance to look at the Christmas asteroid as it passes by this week and between 15 and 17 December it'll even be more visible than Pluto.

If you've got a 30cm telescope that ought to be enough to spot the asteroid, and the ESA has recommended that amateur astronomers use this opportunity to see if they can track down the chunk of space rock.

For those who really want to spot the asteroid the last chance is expected to be 19 December, and with there being zero chance of it slamming into Earth (phew) you'd best see it while you can.

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This isn't the asteroid, but asteroids do look like this. Credit: ESA
This isn't the asteroid, but asteroids do look like this. Credit: ESA

Asteroids are pretty fascinating things, particularly because they might kill us if we get really unlucky to have one hurtling our way.

Earlier this year NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid on purpose (or so they say) to see if we could deflect a dangerous object in space which was headed for our planet.

The test was a success, with the 'battering ram' style probe being able to alter the course of the asteroid and meaning that if we're ever in such huge trouble from one we could possibly deflect it away.

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That's a handy thing to know since we do occasionally detect 'planet killer' asteroids which would spell doom for humanity if we ever ended up on the receiving end of one, and that would spoil Christmas a bit.

Topics: News, Science, Space, Christmas

Joe Harker
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