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NASA’s first look at a tiny asteroid shows the space rock is more moist and studded with boulders than originally thought. -AP

KUALA LUMPUR: A 990 metre-wide asteroid headed towards Earth will not hit the planet, but merely intersect its path this Saturday.

The asteroid, travelling at a speed of 55,000 kp/h and which has been categorised as “potentially hazardous” by the NASA Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), will be close to the planet’s orbit this Feb 15 at 7.05am Malaysian time.

According to the International Business Times, quoting CNEOS, “potentially hazardous asteroids” are defined by the parameters that measure an asteroid’s potential to make threateningly close approaches to Earth.

“It is an Apollo asteroid which is known to intersect Earth’s path around the Sun from time to time. Due to its size and dangerous orbit, the space rock has been labelled as a potentially hazardous asteroid.

“Since the asteroid known as 163373 (2002 PZ39) follows an Earth-crossing orbit, it has a chance of colliding with Earth every time it passes the planet.

“The asteroid will pass over Earth from a distance of 0.03860 astronomical unit or around 3.6 million miles (5793638.4km),” it said.

The asteroid is so massive, that if a collision were to occur, the impact would kill off millions of human inhabitants and lead to a mass extinction of animals, and possibly a global nuclear winter that could last for years.

The next time an asteroid will pass as closely to Earth is 2029, when the Apophis asteroid, measuring 300-metres wide, will cruise by.

NASA said that the chances of that space rock colliding with Earth are also low.

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