Asteroid larger than Big Ben’s tower expected to crash through Earth’s orbit

The asteroid, which has been designated the name 2021RL3, is measured to be close enough to be around 7 lunar distances away (trips to the Moon and back)

The rock is between 160 feet to 360 feet wide

As Brits begin to get ready for bed this evening, an asteroid larger than Big Ben’s clock tower is set to crash through the Earth’s orbit, travelling at incredible speeds of 50,000mph.

The rock, designated 2021RL3, is between 160 feet to 360 feet wide, is expected to come within 1,804,450 miles of Earth, at roughly 10.30pm tonight.

For comparison, the Moon is located just 238,855 miles away.

The asteroid is measured to be close enough to be around 7 lunar distances away (trips to the moon and back), according to the Daily Star.

If it did strike earth, 2021RL3 would make a huge impact.

NASA is able to determine when the asteroid is going to fly by, and how big it is, by the light emitted by the object.

The asteroid is bigger than Big Ben


SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

According to data from the US government agency, the flying debris will follow an elliptical orbit, travelling in between Mars and Jupiter before it zooms closer towards Earth.

2021RL3 will make a closer approach to Earth than any other planet in our solar system.

After, it’s expected to whizz around the Sun before making its journey back.

The Earth’s orbit is hit with over 100 tons of tiny space rocks or other space debris every day, but they’re much smaller with some being only a mere few metres across.

The rock is expected to whizz around the Sun before making its journey back


Getty Images)

Anything smaller than an average car is likely to burn in the atmosphere and isn’t considered a threat to the planet.

NASA believes every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field is likely to make its way through the atmosphere and cause destruction.

And it’s only every few million years that a rock large enough to threaten life on Earth will appear on the radar.

NASA regularly checks ‘close approaches’ to follow asteroids and comets which are heading towards or near the Earth’s orbit.

The space agency lists these encounters so astronomers can study the pieces of rock as they fly past.

According to, 2021RL3 is categorised as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), a classification given to space rocks larger than approximately 100m, that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU (750,00,000 km).

While none of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, astronomers are frequently finding new ones.

2021RL3’s fly-by comes after NASA revealed a new study, where it looked into the likelihood of asteroid Bennu smashing into Earth between now and the year 2300.

The rock, around one-third of a mile wide, is listed as a “potentially hazardous object” to humanity, was first discovered back in 1999.

Bennu, a C-type rock, is one of the two most hazardous known asteroids in the solar system.

New data from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft predict the asteroid’s course through the solar system and raised the overall probability for impact on September 24, 2182.

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