A “potentially dangerous” giant asteroid that could be twice the size of the Empire State Building is set to pass Earth Thursday (April 28), According to NASA.
The asteroid, designated 418135 (2008 AG33), has an estimated diameter of between 1,150 and 2,560 feet (350 to 780 meters) and will break into Earth’s orbit at 23,300 mph (37,400 km/h). Fortunately, the asteroid is expected to pass through our planet without the risk of collision.
At its closest, the asteroid — which travels at more than 30 times the speed of sound — will come about 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) from Landwhich is approximately eight times the average distance between Earth and moon. This might sound like a huge gap, but by cosmological standards, it’s actually a stone’s throw away.
NASA defines any space object within 120 million miles (193 million km) of Earth as a “Near-Earth Object” and any fast-moving object within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million km) as “Potentially Hazardous”. Once the objects are marked, astronomers watch them closely, looking for any deviations from their expected trajectory that could put them on a collision course with Earth.
The upcoming space rock was first discovered on January 12, 2008 by asteroid surveyors at the Mount Lemon Sky Center Observatory in Arizona and last passed Earth on March 1, 2015, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The asteroid oscillates close to our planet approximately every seven years, and it is expected to come very soon on May 25, 2029.
Thursday’s asteroid may not be the biggest space rock to rush ahead in the coming weeks. This heading will likely go to 467,460 (2006 JF42), which has an estimated diameter of between 1,247 and 2,822 feet (380 to 860 meters) and will travel at 25,300 mph (40,700 km/h) when it passes us on May 9, 2022 .
If astronomers ever spy on an asteroid flying directly to Earth, space agencies around the world are already working on ways to potentially deflect the object. On November 24, 2021, NASA launched a spacecraft as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, which plans to redirect a non-hazardous asteroid by colliding with a trajectory, Live Science previously reported. China is also in the early planning stages of an asteroid redirection mission. By hitting 23 Long March 5 rockets at the asteroid Bennu, the country says it will be able to transform the space rock from Potentially catastrophic impact on EarthLive Science reported previously.
Originally published on Live Science.