20:12 GMT09 May 2021
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    A whale-sized space rock that could have demolished an area the size of New York City sped past Earth at nearly 5.5 miles per second, unnoticed.

    A dangerous asteroid called 2017 VL2 was first observed at Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii on November 10. The day before it had skimmed past Earth at a relatively close proximity.

    The potentially deadly space rock could have demolished everything within 3.7 miles (6km) of the area of collision, had it hit Earth.

    It was just 73,000 miles from the planet when it sped by; however NASA astronomers only noticed the asteroid the day after it passed. 

    Theoretically all near-Earth asteroids (NEOs) are monitored by NASA, which calculates potential impacts. Objects larger than 100 meters in diameter that pass within 4.6 million miles –- 0.05 astronomical units – are marked as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

    According to The Watchers, this particular asteroid measured between 52-105 feet (16 and 32m) in diameter, belonging to the Apollo group of asteroids. Currently there are around 8,000 Apollo asteroids near Earth.

    Space entity 2017 VL2 is the 48th asteroid that has come within one lunar distance of Earth since the start of this year.

    Next week on December 16 a much larger "potentially hazardous” asteroid called 3200 Phaethon, measuring 3 miles in diameter, is set to skim past Earth.

    So far it is predicted to be at around 6.4 million miles away from our planet, around 27 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

    NASA said that the asteroid would be a strong radar imaging target at the Goldstone and Arecibo radar observatories, as it will provide a good opportunity to date radar observations in order to obtain clear images.


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    science, space, Earth, astronomers, asteroid, NASA
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