NASA warned that one of the biggest and most dangerous asteroids it has detected is moving towards Earth. If this massive asteroid ends up on a collision course with the planet, it could trigger an extinction-level event.

The approaching asteroid, identified as 52768 (1998 OR2), is currently being monitored by NASA’ Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). According to the agency, this asteroid is currently moving at a speed of 31,320 kilometers per hour. It has an estimated diameter of 4.1 kilometers, making it significantly longer than the entire Hollywood Walk of Fame.

CNEOS noted that this mountain-sized asteroid is expected to fly past Earth on April 29, 2020. During this time, the asteroid is expected to be about 6.3 million kilometers from the planet’s center.

Although this seems like a very safe distance, 52768 (1998 OR2) is classified by CNEOS as a potentially hazardous asteroid. According to the agency, the asteroid is a member of the Amor family, which means it has a very wide orbit around the Earth and the Sun. Occasionally, the asteroid flies near the planet as it completes its cycle around the giant star.

Due to the asteroid’s near-Earth approaches as well as its massive size, 52768 (1998 OR2) poses a huge threat to the planet. If the asteroid’s current trajectory slightly changes, which can easily happen due to gravitational forces in space, it could end up on a collision course with Earth.

Given the asteroid’s size and speed, an Earth impact caused by 52768 (1998 OR2) would create a crater that’s at least 50 kilometers wide. The massive explosion from the impact event would generate violent Earthquakes. It would also send molten debris flying into the sky and crashing on different parts of the world. The intense heatwave from the blast would travel for hundreds of kilometers, incinerating everything in its path.

Eventually, the dust and debris from the impact event would cover the atmosphere, preventing sunlight from penetrating and reaching the Earth’s surface. This event, known as a nuclear winter, would last for several months and could lead to the deaths of various species on the planet.  

Asteroid Impacts A new report indicates that a total of 26 nuclear-level asteroid impacts have hit Earth since 2000. Photo: Donald Davis