VIA| 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.
This is because they could be darker than initially thought and could therefore have some of their bulk obscured by the darkness of space.
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.
There is no science to back any of that up.
But news of 2003 SD220’s approach is likely to fuel this conspiracy.
According to the Idea Girl Severe Storm Predictions Warnings website 2003 SD220 could have enough gravitational pull on Earth to trigger earthquakes or volcanoes.
And conspiracy site Godlikeproductions.com published a list of five asteroids of 0.6miles across or above, that are passing from now until Janauray 2 with the remark: “Look at these big Asteroids all of them are coming this Christmas.
“Something is pushing them towards earth.”
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.
It said: “We propose radar imaging, physical characterisation, and orbit refinement of our 17 highest-priority NEAs for the calendar year 2015 using 294 hours.
“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.”
Previous radar observations have “led to numerous important discoveries”, including multiple-asteroid systems and the “change in spin rate of asteroids due to thermal torques”.
The report added: “Radar is particularly effective at detecting satellites around near earth asteroids having discovered two-thirds of all known binaries and all the known or suspected triple systems.”