A space rock the size of the Statue of Liberty will skim past Earth today.
The asteroid 2010 WC9 is up to 427 feet (130 meters) wide and will get within 126,000 miles (203,000km) of Earth – about half the distance to the moon.
The flyby will be the closest the object has whizzes past our planet for the next 300 years and is one of the nearest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size.
Scientists insist there is no reason to be alarmed as the space rock is predicted to pass at a safe distance.
Scroll down for video
A space rock the size of the Statue of Liberty will skim past Earth today. The asteroid 2010 WC9 (yellow orbit) is up to 427 feet (130 meters) wide and will get within 126,000 miles (203,000km) of Earth (dark blue orbit) – about half the distance to the moon.
2010 WC9 is moving at almost 29,000 miles per hour (46,500kph) and is ‘as big across as a city block’, Dr Erin Ryan, an asteroid expert at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, told NBC News.
Despite its large size 2010 WC9 will not be visible to the naked eye, but star-gazers may spot the object through a telescope.
The space rock was detected by astronomers earlier this month after it was ‘lost’ around eight years ago.
It was first detected by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona in 2010 and was tracked until it became too distant and hence too faint to see.
Scientists were unable to trace its orbit and so could not locate it until it reappeared this month, with estimates predicting it will pass by sometime today.
The asteroid is between 197 and 427 feet (60 to 130 meters) in size, meaning even lower estimates predict it is longer than a football field.
The flyby will be the closest the object has whizzes past our planet for the next 300 years and is one of the nearest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size (stock image)
It is larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor, which smashed windows in multiple Russian cities when it broke up entering Earth’s atmosphere in 2013.
The Chelyabinsk meteor was three times smaller than 2010 WCJ, but hospitalised more than 1,000 people.
The crash was ‘pegged as 30 to 40 times stronger than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima,’ according to EarthSky.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPACE ROCKS?
An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.
A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.
If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.
As it is passing so close to Earth, astronomers are tracking 2010 WCJ’s progress and broadcasting it live online.
‘We plan to broadcast this asteroid to our Facebook page if the weather forecast remains positive,’ said Guy Wells from London’s Northolt Branch Observatories.
‘The broadcast will last less than 25 minutes, since the asteroid will cross our field of view during this time period. The asteroid will move pretty fast (30 seconds of arc per minute).
‘Our display will be updated every five seconds. We, of course, collect astrometric data while this happens, but the movement of the asteroid will occur every five seconds.’