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Large Asteroid Dubbed 'The Rock' Passing By Earth

| by Denise Recalde

A space asteroid dubbed "The Rock" after pro-wrestler Dwayne Johnson because of its exceptional size, is set to make the closest pass to Earth in 13 years on April 19. 

The rock headed in our direction is speeding at about 73 miles per second and spans between 2,132 feet and 0.87 miles in length, Mirror reports. 

Scientists estimate the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth in 400 years at 1:24 BST on April 19 (5:25 a.m. Pacific Standard Time in the U.S.). At that time, the huge rock will be at a distance of 1.1 million miles, or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. 

The asteroid will not be revisiting this part of the galaxy again for at least another 500 years. 

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Astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first detected "The Rock" -- officially called 2014 JO25 -- about three years ago. 

Not much is known about its physical properties. However, NASA believes its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon, which will enable astronomers to see it from Earth. 

We are safe from The Rock but it will come very close to our planet for an asteroid of its size. 

Small asteroids come this close to Earth several times a week, but The Rock is making the closest pass of any detected asteroid this size or larger in 13 years.  

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The last asteroid of similar size, the 3.1-mile space rock Toutatis, came within about four lunar distances in September 2004. 

The next projected "close-call" will be in 2027 when the half-mile-wide asteroid 1999 AN10 will pass Earth at one lunar distance, or 236,000 miles. 

The Rock's close approach is an "alarming reminder" of how potentially devastating chunks of space debris can get within scary distances of Earth, robotic telescope service Slooh said.

"Even a [90-foot] sized asteroid can cause significant damage to a major city," said Slooh. 

"While not causing an extinction level event, an impact from an asteroid the size of 'The Rock' would have a calamitous effect at the local and even regional level." 

According to The Independent, an asteroid one mile wide hitting our planet would unleash an energy similar to around 1,000 atom bombs -- the kind that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.  

NASA has urged astronomers and amateur stargazers to take advantage of this "outstanding opportunity" to view the large asteroid. The space rock is observable with a small optical telescope for one or two nights before it flies out of our scope of sight. 

"Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible," NASA stated. 

Sources: Mirror, The Independent / Photo credit: Pixabay

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