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Asteroid alert: NASA tracks a rock found FOUR days ago on a 34,000MPH Earth approach

AN ASTEROID first observed in the solar system four days ago will rapidly approach the planet in less than 24 hours, the US space agency has confirmed.

The NASA-tracked asteroid is expected to close-in on Earth at speeds exceeding 34,000mph (54,717km/h). The asteroid, named Asteroid 2020 CO2, was first confirmed in the solar system on Friday, February 14.

NASA’s asteroid trackers have since determined the rock’s trajectory, speed and probable size.

According to NASA, the asteroid is an Apollo-type NEO or near-Earth object.

Apollo-type rocks happen to orbit the Sun on trajectories that cross Earth's orbit similar to that of Asteroid 1862 Apollo.

NEOs are all comets and asteroids that orbit the Sun from within 1.3 astronomical units.

Asteroid alert: NASA is tracking a space rock on Earth approach this week (Image: GETTY)Asteroid alert: The space rock is an NEO or near-Earth object (Image: GETTY)

NASA said: “Some asteroids and comets follow orbital paths that take them much closer to the Sun and therefore Earth – than usual.

“If a comet or asteroid’s approach brings it to within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun, we call it a near-Earth object.”

NASA predicts Asteroid CO2 will make its approach to Earth tomorrow (February 19) around 8.36pm GMT (3.36pm EST).

When this happens, NASA said the asteroid will be flying by at speeds of about 15.35km per second.

In other words, the asteroid is hurtling towards us at about 34,336mph (55,260km/h).

NASA further estimates the space rock measures somewhere in the range of 39.4ft to 88.5ft (12m to 27m) across.

At the upper end of the estimate, the space rock can be compared to six Volkswagen Beetles line up in a row.

At the lower end of NASA’s estimate, the space rock is about as wide as one-and-a-half London double-decker buses are long.

Objects this big frequently shoot past the planet but they usually miss us by many thousands or even millions of miles.

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Asteroid news: The differences between asteroids, comets and meteors (Image: EXPRESS)Asteroid alert: Does NASA expect the asteroid to hit us any time soon? (Image: GETTY)

NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth.

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”

On Wednesday, Asteroid CO2 is expected to approach Earth from a distance of about 0.00992 astronomical units.

A single astronomical unit is the distance from our planet to the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).

So by NASA’s estimate, CO2 will safely miss the planet by about 922,121 miles (1.48 million km).

The distance is equal to about 3.86 times as far as the Moon is from Earth.

NASA said: “No one should be overly concerned about an Earth impact of an asteroid or comet.

“The threat to any one person from auto accidents, disease, other natural disasters and a variety of other problems is much higher than the threat from NEOs.

“Over long periods of time, however, the chances of the Earth being impacted are not negligible so that some form of NEO insurance is warranted.”

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