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Asteroid to whiz closely past Earth for second time this week

Tom Fontaine
| Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, 2:12 p.m.
An asteroid that could be larger than a blue whale is expected to pass with 39,000 miles of Earth on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.
NASA
An asteroid that could be larger than a blue whale is expected to pass with 39,000 miles of Earth on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

An asteroid that could be larger than a blue whale is expected to pass within 39,000 miles of Earth on Friday afternoon, according to NASA .

It will be the second close encounter with an asteroid this week. One between 50 and 100 feet wide passed within 114,000 miles of Earth on Tuesday.

Friday's asteroid could be up to 150 feet wide. It's expected to whiz past Earth around 2:30 p.m. EST. To put its closeness in context, the moon on average is 238,900 miles from Earth.

Paul Chodas, who manages the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., described this week's asteroids as “quite small,” but said Friday's “might well be larger than the asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, almost exactly five years ago.”

That asteroid exploded over the Russian city, shattering glass and injuring about 1,200 people, according to space.com .

This week's close encounters are rare.

“Asteroids of this size do not often approach this close to our planet — maybe only once or twice a year,” Chodas said.

No known asteroid poses a significant risk of impacting Earth for more than 150 years. An asteroid known as 2009 FD has a 1 in 714 chance of impacting Earth in 2185, according to NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review assistant news editor.

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