A dangerous asteroid is headed towards the Earth. This enormous asteroid could be the cause of earthquakes or volcano eruptions right on the Christmas Eve.
The 1.5-miles wide mega space rock known as 2003 SD220 is on a NASA list of “high priority” asteroids for close observation because of the potential threat to the planet.
A direct hit from the gigantic asteroid would be enough to destroy a whole continent or worse.
NASA and other astronomers have a list of 17 high-priority near-Earth asteroids which have been or will be monitored by radar as they get close to the planet in 2015.
Of these, a group of ten, including 2003 SD220, could be even bigger than astronomers have already calculated as so little is known about them. A smaller group of six, also including 2003 SD220, are also considered potentially hazardous to Earth due to their sizes and orbits.
News of the close pass comes after it was reported yesterday that conspiracy theories believe a mysterious planet called Planet X or Nibiru, said to be four times the size of Jupiter will pass the Earth this month, but wipe out life due to its immense gravitational force ripping up continents and showering us with comets.
According to the Idea Girl Severe Storm Predictions Warnings website 2003 SD220 could have enough gravitational pull on Earth to trigger earthquakes or volcanoes.
But there is no scientific support for either of these theories.
A team made up of NASA and staff from the Arecibo observatory in Peurto Rico are preparing to carry out specialist radar observations of 2003 SD220 as it nears us from mid December.
A NASA report seen by Express.co.uk explained the importance of carrying out radar observations on the celestial object.
“Radar is arguably the most powerful Earth-based technique for post-discovery physical and dynamical characterisation of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs).
“Over the long term, our observations will help answer fundamental questions regarding the origin of the diversity in asteroid morphologies, the importance of spin-up mechanisms and collisional influences, the interior structure and thermal properties of asteroids, and the variety of dynamical states.”
Radar observations allow scientists to get much more accurate measurements and creates 3D models of them and their trajectories.
Although 2003 SD220 is expected to pass at a cosmically close 6.7 million miles, one of the biggest concerns with these largely unknown asteroids is the potential for Yarkovsky drift.
This is a radiative effect that subtly changes the orbits of asteroids, which could potentially make them come closer or even hit Earth.
The report added: “Radar-derived shape models enable us to obtain astrometry with superb accuracy on the order of a few tens of meters.
“Little is known about the remaining 10 high-priority targets other than the absolute magnitudes and their heliocentric orbits that make six of them potentially hazardous to Earth.
“Radar will provide the first detailed physical characterisations of these objects including sizes, shapes, surface features, spin-state estimates, reflective properties, and near-surface roughnesses.”
In 2018 2003 SD220 will make another close pass.
The report said: “Many are not re-observable at the same strength for several decades meaning this is our best chance to characterise them, while, on the other hand, observing 2010 NY65 and 2003 SD220 now will help us prepare for their close approaches in the next few years.”
According to NASA a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) has a such an orbit it “has the potential to make close approaches to the Earth and a size large enough to cause significant regional damage in the event of impact.”
The PHA section of NASA’s website said: “These objects are monitored by NASA with contributions from others including amateurs.
“The reason they can become hazardous is that their trajectory can variate due to gravitational fields from Planets or Stars, or other objects.”
So there are genuine scientific concerns about this asteroid.
However, NASA says “the chance of a potentially hazardous event due to these objects is about once in 10,000 years.”
Following widespread, and inaccurate conspiracy theories that a major asteroid would hit Earth this September, NASA put out a statement saying it knows of no large asteroid that is on collision course with us for several hundred years.