Add this to the list of things that freak us out: When experts who have been observing space for decades and have seen objects pass Earth without phasing them nickname a near-Earth asteroid, ‘The Beast.”
But that’s exactly what observers are calling Asteroid 2014 HQ124, that’s reportedly supposed to make its closest approach to Earth on Sunday. The asteroid—nicknamed “The Beast” —is about 1067 feet wide and was first discovered on April 23rd, 2014, according to Space.com. It’s traveling about 31,000 mph, and on Sunday, it will come within 777,000 miles of Earth—that’s about 3.25 times the distance from Earth to the moon, Scientific American reports.
While it’s one of the closest asteroids to fly by Earth, experts say there’s no chance of impact. That’s a good thing, according to experts, because the consequences could be disastrous.
“If it hit a city, it would definitely wipe out an entire metropolitan area,”asteroid impact expert Mark Boslough, of Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, said in a webcast hosted by the Slooh community observatory.
“The Beast” is just one of more potentially dangerous space objects that have alarmed scientists and freaked out the paranoid.
Some so-called “near earth objects” have made for some pretty images across the night sky, like the Giraffe meteor shower on May 24, which was followed by the passing of the closest comet to approach Earth since the the IRAS-Araki-Alcock passed in 1983.
Another could be seen for more than just one night and led to more the two dozen deaths without actually touching Earth’s atmosphere. In 1997, the Hale-Bop comet was visible for more than 18 months and 38 people who were part of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult in San Diego committed mass suicide to join the alien space craft they believed was trailing the comet.
One struck the Earth’s atmosphere—the 65-foot-wide previously undetected asteroid that exploded without warning in the sky above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, 2013. The shock waves from the blast injured more than 1,200 people.
“HQ124 [a.k.a. “The Beast”] is at least 10 times bigger, and possibly 20 times, than the asteroid that injured a thousand people last year in Chelyabinsk,” Bob Berman, an astronomer with Slooh, told National Geographic.
Scientists estimates that they've found about 95 percent of the potential "civilization-enders" out there -- mountain-size asteroids at least 0.6 miles (1 km) across. But there are probably more than 1 million near-Earth asteroids at least 100 feet (30 m) wide, and less than 1 percent of them have been discovered.
Want more that scientists actually know about? See here.Lara can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Lara on Twitter: @BostonLara