The asteroid, known as 216258 2006 WH1, is set for its closest approach to Earth on December 20 – just days before Christmas. The 540 metre space rock is the same size as the World Trade Centre and would cause a significant amount of damage and mass extinction.

The asteroid is currently thought to be hurtling towards the Earth at a speed of 43,200km/h or 26,843mph.

The asteroid’s course could be further influenced by natural a phenomenon known as the Yarkovksey effect.

The effect occurs when the gentle force of sunlight edges an asteroid either way of its natural course.

Its influence on an asteroid was demonstrated in 2012 with mastoid 1999RQ36.

NASA has spotted a mammoth sized asteroid that might hit Earth during Christmas
NASA has spotted a mammoth sized asteroid that might hit Earth during Christmas (Image: GETTY)
Asteroids and comets always whizz by the Earth - some closer than others
Asteroids and comets always whizz by the Earth – some closer than others (Image: GETTY)

Scientists, using the Yarkovksey effect, were able to estimate the most accurate determination of an asteroids orbit to date.

Asteroids larger than approximately 35 metres across pose a threat to a town or city, this meaning that 216258 2006 WH1’s 540 metre diameter would likely cause havoc across the globe.

The asteroid hasn’t yet been measured on the Torio Impact Hazard Scale, but will likely be listed as a serious threat when and if it is added.

A stripped down version of the Torino Scale was presented to the United Nations in 1995.

The last lethal asteroid collision with Earth was during the time of the dinosaurs
Then, a revised version was presented in 1999 at a conference on Near Earth Objects (NEO).

It was at this conference that participants voted to make the revised version the main scale that scientists would use and refer to when labelling the threat asteroids posed to Earth.

The system has an integer scale ranging from 0 to 10 with associated colour coding.

It currently captures the likelihood and consequences of a potential impact event.

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