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Asteroid ‘the size of a bus’ to hurtle past Earth closer than the Moon today

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An asteroid “the size of a small school bus” is set to hurtle past Earth on Thursday, Nasa has said.

The space rock, called 2020 SW, will fly past at a distance of 13,000 miles away – closer than the Moon and the television and weather satellites in our planet’s orbit.

It is thought to be between five and ten metres wide.

Scientists in a Nasa-funded facility in Arizona only discovered the asteroid last Friday, but have ruled out a collision with the Earth’s surface.

File photo of an asteroid near Earth (Dreamstime)

The space agency said in a statement: “Although it’s not on an impact trajectory with Earth, if it were, the space rock would almost certainly break up high in the atmosphere, becoming a bright meteor known as a fireball.”

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The asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye as it passes us by, but people with 12-inch telescopes may be able to catch a glimpse.

After 2020 SW passes the Earth on Thursday, it will continue on a trajectory around the Sun, Nasa said.

The asteroid will only pass by the Earth again in 2041, when it will be much further away.

There are thought to be more than 100 million small asteroids (PA)

Paul Chodas, a director at NASA’s Jet Propulsions Laboratory, said: “There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year.

“In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two.”

There are thought to be more than 100 million small asteroids like 2020 SW, but because of their size scientists find them hard to spot until they are relatively close.

An asteroid flew by Earth at the shortest distance ever recorded on August 20 this year – but Nasa admitted they did not see it until it had already gone past.

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