spaceSpace and Physics

Enormous Asteroid Will Zip Past Earth On Christmas Eve


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockDec 20 2015, 17:02 UTC
244 Enormous Asteroid Will Zip Past Earth On Christmas Eve
Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF

Christmas Eve is going to be a busy night in space for Earth-dwellers. Not only will the International Space Station (ISS) be visible over the U.K. on Christmas Eve, but there will also be a giant asteroid passing over Earth. And Santa’s sleigh will be up there too, obviously.

The asteroid, known as both 163899 and 2003 SD220, will pass Earth on Christmas Eve at 8 kilometers (5 miles) per second. While initial reports estimated the asteroid to be between 0.7 and 1.3 kilometers (0.4 and 0.8 miles) in diameter, recent findings from the Arecibo Observatory say it's more likely to be around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) in size.


Despite claims that this asteroid “could cause earthquakes and volcanoes,” the space rock will harmlessly fly over Earth at a distance of 11 million kilometers (6.8 million miles) – that’s around 28 times the distance from the Moon.

Unfortunately, this distance means you won't be able to see the asteroid, unless you have a radio telescope like the one at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico that gathered this information. Even using a light telescope, the asteroid will be too distant to see.

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