An asteroid up to half a mile wide will skim past the Earth on Monday in one of the closest near misses ever recorded.
The giant space rock, labelled XP14, was detected by a robot telescope scouring the skies for possible deadly hazards. It will pass our planet at a distance of just over a quarter of a million miles – a close shave on the cosmic scale of things.
The asteroid, first detected in December 2004, will pass close enough for amateur astronomers on the west coast of America to spot it in their backyard telescopes. XP14 is one of the Apollo group of asteroids which are termed “potentially hazardous objects” because their orbits cross that of the Earth. But there is no danger of an Armageddon-style collision this time round.
XP14 was spotted by the automatic Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research telescope (LINEAR) in New Mexico. It will pass closest to Earth around dawn UK time on Monday at a distance of 268,624 miles.
Nasa scientists plan to use the 230ft Goldstone radar dish in California’s Mojave Desert to bounce signals off the asteroid and determine its size more accurately. Similar radar observations will be made by astronomers at Evpatoria in the Ukraine.