There's a chance a 50m-wide asteroid could collide with planet Earth later this year.
Asteroids and space matter travelling close to earth are constantly monitored by NASA and the space agency's European counterpart, and their tracking data shows that one will soon be flying uncomfortably close.
While potentially hazardous asteroids regularly pass Earth without issue, on September 9, a rock known as 2006 QV89 will make its closest approach to Earth in some time.
Measuring close to 50 metres wide, the asteroid would be the largest recorded space rock to hit planet Earth.
A remote area of Siberia was struck by the biggest recorded asteroid in 1908, and while accounts still differ, the resulting seismic shockwaves registered with barometers as far away as England.
'A century later some still debate the cause and come up with different scenarios that could have caused the explosion,' said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
'But the generally agreed upon theory is that on the morning of June 30, 1908, a large space rock, about 120 feet (36m) across, entered the atmosphere of Siberia and then detonated in the sky.'
It's estimated the asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere travelling at a speed of about 53,900 kilometres per hour. During its quick plunge, the nearly 100-million-kilogram space rock heated the air surrounding it to 24,700 degrees.
At 7.17 am (local Siberia time), at a height of about 8,500 metres, the combination of pressure and heat caused the asteroid to fragment and annihilate itself, producing a fireball and releasing energy equivalent to about 185 Hiroshima bombs.
The European Space Agency's (ESA) risk-tracking database relies on models and calculations based on past observations, and thankfully those measurements are typically very accurate.
By their modelling, the ESA has given the asteroid 2006 QV89 somewhat longshot odds of 1-in-7,300 of slamming into planet Earth.
And, while an asteroid of that size isn't a potential planet destroyer, it is large enough to cause significant damage if it struck populated land and could cause a tsunami if it touched down in the ocean.
But don't fret, besides the long odds of an impact occurring, researchers can track the space rock with improved accuracy the closer the asteroid flies to Earth.
A decade from now, scientists are also gearing up for a near miss by the largest asteroid to pass close to the Earth in recent history.
The object known as 99942 Apophis won't make an appearance until 2029, but when it does it will pass with about 33,000 kilometres above the earth's surface – slightly closer than the orbits of communication satellites.
And while, shortly after its discovery a few years ago, there were concerns that the 350m rock – a rock 100 times larger than the largest asteroid known to have hit the Earth in recorded human history – might impact the planet, that isn't going to happen according to researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.
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