On February 11, an asteroid is set to have a close encounter with Earth. The asteroid in question is known as 2021 CO, and is currently moving through the solar system at an astonishing rate. NASA analysis shows the asteroid is travelling at a staggering 11.6 kilometres per second.
This translates to more than 41,000 kilometres per hour.
The space agency has also discovered the asteroid to be 32 metres in length, making it roughly the same size as Brazil’s Christ The Redeemer statue.
According to NASA, asteroid 2021 CO will come closer to the Earth than the orbit of the Moon.
The distance between the two celestial bodies is known as one lunar distance (LD).
NASA has shown 2021 CO will fly by our planet on February 11 at a distance of just 0.9 LDs, or 345,885 kilometres from us.
The passing of the asteroid, which poses no threat to our planet, has been classified as a ‘near Earth object’ (NEO) by NASA, which allows them to study the history of the solar system.
NASA said on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
“As the primitive, leftover building blocks of the solar system formation process, comets and asteroids offer clues to the chemical mixture from which the planets formed some 4.6 billion years ago.”
Even if 2021 CO were to hit, which it will not, then it would not pose a significant threat to our planet.
At 32 metres, it is similar in size to the Chelyabinsk meteor.
In 2013, a 20-metre space rock hurtled towards Earth, making its way through the atmosphere before exploding above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The meteor explosion was so powerful that it caused damage to more than 7,000 buildings and injured more than 1,400 people.