The universe is a massive place with billions of stars and galaxies. It is estimated that with the technology and telescopic power advancing, the Hubble telescope will be capable of discovering billions more.
Asteroids are small, inactive, rocky bodies orbiting the sun, especially between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, ranging in size from nearly 600 miles (1,000 km) to dust particles. Asteroids have swept past the Earth thousands of times, and sometimes we don’t even know it.
Everyday, the Earth is subjected to more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles. And once a year, an asteroid the size of a car comes in contact with the Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere shields us from the impact as the meteor is burnt and becomes the size of a pebble to nothing before touching the ground. Meteors travel through vacuum of space, usually travelling at speeds reaching tens of thousands of miles per hour. When the meteor enters the Earth’s atmosphere, the air in front of the meteor is compressed at an alarming rate, increasing its temperature. This causes the meteor to heat up and burn until its disintegrated.
It is estimated that about 15,000 chunks of rocks (Near-Earth Asteroids – NEAs), are orbiting the Earth today within about 0.2 billion kilometers (0.12 billion miles) from the Sun. They pass by the Earth at regular intervals, but today it appears that at least three to four asteroids will skim past us.
NEOShield, an international consortium, reports that the asteroids 2006LH, 2010XN, and 2006XD2 are all going to pass by Earth today on Wednesday, December 21. The asteroids differ in size and the first one is believed to be just 45 meters (148 feet) in diameter and moving at a speed of 9.4 kilometers (5.8 miles) per second, while the third one is the biggest and fastest which is 260 meters (853 feet) in length, and moving at 13.6 kilometers (8.5 miles) per second.
— The NEOShield-2 Team (@NEOShieldTeam) December 19, 2016
The asteroid 2006XD2, is massive and if its path was towards the Earth, the impact would have been devastating. If 2006XD2 has a mass of around 30 billion kilograms (33 million tons), and would impact the planet with 2.8 quintillion joules of energy, it could wipe out a significant part of the Earth. It’s still smaller than the asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago and was the reason for the extinction of dinosaurs.