Asteroid warning: 20,000 potentially DANGEROUS asteroids fly past Earth - 861 pose RISK

 Asteroid warning: Giant space rock over Earth

Asteroid warning: More than 20,000 asteroids are flying past Earth (Image: GETTY)

More than 860 asteroids and comets whizzing around Earth have the potential to strike the planet at a future date. Each month, the European Space Agency discovers around 160 new space rocks but many remain unaccounted for. Last month alone (April 2019), the ESA has revealed 208 new asteroids closing in on Earth. And since the start of the year, the ESA’s database of so-called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) has grown by 731 space rocks.

As of April 27 this year, the total number of NEOs flying past Earth stands at a terrifying 20,022 asteroids and 107 comets.

The startling figures were revealed in the ESA’s monthly NEO Coordination Centre newsletter for May, 2019.

The ESA said: "The number of NEAs reached the round total of 20,000 at the end of last month.

“This group of asteroids is steadily growing at a pace of roughly 160 new discoveries each month, thanks to the world done by the main asteroid surveys.

“‘It has taken less than six years to double the population of known NEAs, compared to the 115 years it took to discover the first 10,000, starting with Eros in 1989.

“Currently the major contributors to the discovery quest are the NASA funded Pan-STARRS and Catalina sky surveys.

“ESA will contribute to such discovery effort to find the millions of NEAs that are still waiting to be detected by putting into action a first Flyeye telescope in 2020, operating from Sicily in Italy.”

NEOs are all comets in the inner circles of the solar system, which fly just past the orbit of Earth at a distance of 1.3 astronomical units (au) or 120.8 million miles (194.5 million km).

NEO classifications are further broken down into Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and Near-Earth Comets (NECs).

If a destructively large enough asteroid is found barreling in the direction of the Earth, the ESA ranks on its so-called Risk List.

This month, two new asteroids shot up to the top of the space agency’s list of hazards – Asteroid 2019 GD1 and Asteroid 2019 DS1.

ESA said: “2019 GD1 is the new top-ranked object in our risk list, for a possible very low probability impact in 2115.

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Asteroid warning: 160 new NEOs are discovered each month on average (Image: ESA)

 Asteroid warning: Giant space rock over Earth

Asteroid warning: 861 space rocks pose a threat to the planet (Image: GETTY)

“It’s high ranking is due to its size, estimated to be between 300m and 500m.

“2019 DS1 is an older object that has been increasing in ranking due to new observations, including our own obtained with the 10.4m GTC telescope.

“It has multiple impact chances starting in 2082, for an overall impact probability of about one in 800 over the next century.”

NEOs are ranked on the ESA’s risk list as soon as they have a more-than-zero probability of striking Earth, even if it is very low.