Newly-Discovered Asteroid Passes Close to Earth

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In comparison the moon is 238,000 miles (384,000km) away.

Asteroids and comets are differentiated based on what they are mad of.

It will pass between the Earth and the Moon at a distance of just 139,433 miles - close enough to be considered a near miss by astronomers.

The asteroid was first spotted at Mount Lemmon Survey Observatory in Arizona and will be the 52nd to pass between Earth and the moon this year.

The 'potentially hazardous' asteroid is 22.6 to 49 feet in diameter (seven to 15 metres) and is due to skim past Earth at 4.56pm this afternoon.

'As of December 24, there are 17,495 known Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) around our planet; 17,389 are asteroids'. This was the space rock's closest approach to our planet since 1974 (when it also flew by on Dec. 16). Still, an asteroid strike of that size on a heavily populated would most certainly be devastating.

NASA considers and monitors anything which comes within six million miles of our planet as a near earth asteroid.

The first detection of gravitational waves two years ago has already brought scientists the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, but sensing the space-time ripples after the merger of the neutron stars marked the first-ever detection of gravitational waves as well as light produced and emitted during the same cosmic event, a phenomenon that scientists like to describe as hearing and seeing the violent universe. An asteroid of 19 meters exploded while flying over Chelyabinsk.

The new data is a reminder of just how important it is to have the Arecibo Observatory back up and running again in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Unfortunately, more than 1,000 people suffered damages.

There are international collaborations pursuing the possibilities of deflecting hypothetically dangerous NEOs, essentially by crashing probes into them to knock them off course by a couple of degrees. However, the humanity hasn't discovered them all "yet". The space agency is currently developing a spacecraft as small as a refrigerator, which will be tested with a tiny asteroid in 2024.

A Chinese satellite detected mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays, bringing scientists closer to proving the existence of dark matter.

The year also marks some giant strides taken by China to emerge as a formidable space power.

According to Nasa, there are no significant asteroids set to hit Earth for at least a century.