The picture above reveals all of the KNOWN asteroids that could potentially strike Earth, with NASA admitting that there are many more UNKNOWN rocks that may also brush past us without them knowing about.
The picture above shows a huge number of different lines all representing orbits of different asteroids, as revealed by Slooh astronomers this week.
Although NASA have downplayed the likelihood of an asteroid striking the earth any time soon, experts agree that these new images are “startling” and something to “keep an eye on to make sure they do not hit us”.
Could the rumors of a massive catastrophic asteroid colliding with Earth this September be true after all?
Eric Edelman, producer of the Slooh telescope live internet channel said: “This is a startling image. These are the potentially hazardous asteroids that surround us and we are keeping an eye on to make sure they do not hit us. This is a really amazing figure to see that many lines that we are keeping our eye on.”
Mr Berman said: “Absolutely, I wish we could see it in 3D as we can’t see how many of them cross our path in each dimension, but if it is in this diagram it means they can cross our path and can hit us and that is a lot of them. If a half mile object like icarus hit it would be a very band day for Earth indeed.”
He also said the orbits were unpredictable, adding: “They do not have nice round orbit like our own planet, some go in then come out.”
Icarus, which has been monitored by NASA since 1949, could one day hit us at around 70,000mph and has the potential to wipe out a hemisphere, according to Mr Berman.
Viewers of the Slooh telescope internet channel watched Icarus pass at a relatively safe distance of about 5million miles away on Tuesday evening.
The Slooh telescope on the Canary Islands recorded at around 10pm the “close Earth” flyby.
Viewers heard that the asteroid has got 5million miles nearer to us in the space of just 19 years.
When it last passed by in 1996, it was a much more reassuring 10million miles away.
Mr Berman said: “In 1996 it was twice as far away, almost 10 million miles away and by that metric, this is very close. It has the potential, and it means some day it could hit us. It is one of a number we have to keep our eye on.”
Asked by a viewer through Twitter the potential result of a direct strike on earth, Mr Berman said it would be “catastrophic” after hitting at about 66,000 miles an hour – more than 28 times faster than the Moon’s orbit speed of 2,300mph.
He said: “It could destroy an area like the east coast of America and cause tsunamis and wreck a lot of the hemisphere. It would be catastrophic. It would not be earth destroying and wipe out the human race, but it would be very serious. If a half a mile object like Icarus did hit us it would be a very bad day indeed.
This is a startling image. These are the potentially hazardous asteroids that surround us and we are keeping an eye on to make sure they do not hit us. This is a really amazing figure to see that many lines that we are keeping our eye on.
But Mr Berman explained that it did not mean the next pass estimated in June 2043 would be another 5million miles closer, as the distances had been known to vary and it could pass further next time, and it may be thousands of years before it actually strikes.
But due to the uncertainty, he said systems to deal with a strike must be implemented.
He said: “Someday we will have something in place like an anti-comet, an anti-asteroid sentry system that can send a rocket out in time. Right now we don’t have that in place and the best thing we can do is watch these, monitor these and that is what we are doing.”
The asteroid flew by without incident at 21 times the distance between the Earth and our Moon, but in relation to the vast scale of the universe Icarus was considered to have “whistled past” our planet.
In 1967, in the months before it passed in 1968, a group of students used the asteroid to develop a plan to save the world in the event of a strike.
Slooh astronomer Will Gater said: “Close approaches like this one are always a reminder that our Solar System is a dynamic place, and that asteroids are thought to have played an important role in our past.”
NASA religiously monitors close asteroid fly-bys but does not believe we are in danger of actually being hit by space rock for several hundred years.
Over the past week www.Express.co.uk has revealed how asteroids the size of tower blocks, jumbo jets, and a car – all sizes that could devastate a city if they struck – have been monitored flying “close to Earth”.
A jumbo jet-sized asteroid is due to pass us at 2.1million miles away today.
Another the size of a football stadium, at 225metres in length, is due to pass on Sunday.
World Asteroid Day, an event backed by Queen guitarist Brian May and TV astronomer Brian Cox takes place on June 30, to highlight the risk to our planet from cosmic rock strikes.
They argue NASA and other space agencies are not doing enough to prepare for a hit, and a system such as that described by Mr Berman should already be in place.