'The Beast' undetected until April
A giant asteroid astronomers are calling “The Beast” will fly by Earth early Sunday morning at speeds of up to 31,000 mph -- and although there's no chance of it hitting our planet, experts say its massive size makes it something to take seriously.
The asteroid, 2014 HQ124, is about 1,067 feet across and as big as a football stadium, according to Space.com. It is set to fly by Earth around 1:56 a.m.
Bob Berman, an astronomer with the online Slooh community observatory, said the asteroid is at least 10 times bigger than the one last year in Chelyabinsk, Siberia. That meteor, which was 55 feet wide, was caught on video. It blasted glass out of windows, and shock waves from the blast injured more than 1,000 people.
The HQ124 asteroid is expected to be at least three lunar distances away when it zooms by Earth, according to Space.com. That's within 777,000 miles of Earth and about 3.25 times the distance from the Earth to the moon, says Scientific American. Slooh will broadcast the HQ124 event live.
HQ124 wasn't spotted by NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer until April 23, which experts say is a long time for it to go unnoticed. The infrared Explorer picked it up against a backdrop of stars.
“What's disconcerting is that a rocky/metallic body this large, and coming so very close, should have only first been discovered this soon before its nearest approach,” Berman said. “If it were to impact us, the energy released would be measured not in kilotons like the atomic bombs that ended World War II, but in H-bomb type megatons.”
Sky surveys have cataloged and are tracking about 90 percent of the potentially dangerous asteroids that are 3,200 feet or larger in diameter and have the potential to destroy continents on impact, National Geographic reports.