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Asteroid Will Pass Earth Closer Than the Moon Saturday

Newsweek logo Newsweek 11/9/2018 Katherine Hignett

© Getty Images A newly discovered asteroid that is taller than a house is set to safely buzz past Earth Saturday afternoon. NASA predicts space rock 2018 VX1 will reach a close approach of around 237,000 miles. That’s slightly below the average distance to the moon.

Spotted on Sunday, the Apollo-type asteroid is thought to stretch between 26 ft and 60 ft long. It will reach its close approach to our planet at approximately 1.20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Astronomers with the Mount Lemmon Survey were first to catch a glimpse of the space rock, according to The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. The asteroid will barrel towards Earth at about 4 miles per second, relative to our planet, NASA reported.

You can watch the close approach online with the Virtual Telescope Project, which will stream the asteroid live from 1 p.m. ET.

2018 VX1 is not the only asteroid headed for Earth Saturday. 2018 VS1 and 2018 VR1 are set for flybys at 9.03 a.m. ET and 9.19 a.m. ET, respectively. Larger than 2018 VX1, these planets will travel safely past our planet at much larger distances.

2018 VS1 has a diameter between 40 ft and 90 ft, according to NASA estimates. The space rock is slated to come within 862,000 miles of our planet, reaching a relative velocity of about 7 miles per second at close approach.

2018 VR1 is thought to be slightly larger than VS1, with an estimated diameter between 45 ft and 100 ft. It will charge towards Earth at about 7 miles per second, reaching a close approach distance of 3,129,000 miles.

Although these asteroids are completely safe and pose no risk to life on our planet, space rocks can be deadly. Tens of millions of years ago, a giant asteroid is thought to have crashed to Earth, triggering a series of cataclysmic events that killed the majority of animal and plants. Known as the Chicxulub asteroid, scientists believe this mass extinction event claimed the life of most dinosaurs.

More recently—and less catastrophically—space rocks have shattered windows, damaged buildings and flattened forests. The Tunguska event of 1908 is thought to have produced an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945, NASA reports.

Just five years ago, a meteor exploded in the skies near Chelyabinsk, Russia, causing an estimated 1,500 indirect injuries and damaging more than 7,000 buildings.

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