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Astronomers track near-earth asteroid

Dr Mark Gallaway Photo: Lauren Hall

An asteroid the size of a small office block will narrowly avoid Earth this evening. It is the closest an asteroid has come to our planet in recent history.

Although there is no chance it will hit us, the huge rock is being closely monitored by astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire as part of an on-going programme to monitor 'Near Earth Objects'.

Weighing 130,000 tonnes and travelling towards us at around 17,500 miles per hour, the asteroid, officially named 2012DA14, will pass between Earth and its communication satellites such as Sky's Astra satellite.

Astronomers Dr Mark Gallaway and David Campbell are using five high-powered telescopes to track its movements.

It is too faint to see with the naked eye, but the asteroid will be visible through binoculars or a telescope this evening at approximately 7.30pm.

Although there is absolutely no chance of this particular asteroid hitting Earth, it does highlight the dangers of so called 'Near Earth Objects' of which about ten thousand of the expected one million have been identified.

By monitoring its movements we will be able to improve our understanding of these potentially hazardous objects."

– – DR MARK GALLAWAY, ASTRONOMER

You can monitor the asteroid on NASA TV

Astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire Credit: Lauren Hall

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