KEY POINTS

  • 2020 WD5 will zip past Earth on Thursday 
  • The NEA is taller than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  • The NEA has not been added to the ESA Risk List

To welcome the final month of the year is an 820 ft (250 m) asteroid, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The giant, which is expected to be three-fourths as tall as the Eiffel Tower, is set to pass Thursday.

CNEOS' Close Approach Data Table reported that a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) identified as 2020 WD5 is hurtling toward Earth this week. The NEA is said to be traveling at a speed of 18 miles per second (about 68,000 mph) and is expected to make its close approach Thursday, at 4:27 p.m. EDT.

The asteroid 2020 WD5 is about three-fourths as big as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The tower, considered as the largest structure in Paris, stands at a height of 1,060 ft (323 m). For residents in San Francisco, the NEA would be taller than the Golden Gate Bridge in California. The height of each tower of the bridge is about 745 feet (227 m).

Luckily, the European Space Agency (ESA) has not included the giant NEA on its Risk List, although it still is under close observation by the agency. 2020 WD5's closest approach with the planet will be about 3,900,000 miles (6,000,000 km) away from the planet's surface.

2020 WD5 is an Apollo NEA, which means it follows an orbit that crosses that of the Earth. Asteroids with Earth-crossing orbits have a higher chance of having close approaches with the planet, with some entering the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Database Browser indicated that the NEA was first discovered on Nov. 18.

Asteroid The left-hand image shows SPHERE observations of Asteroid 1999 KW4. The angular resolution in this image is equivalent to picking out a single building in New York — from Paris. An artist's impression of the asteroid pair is shown on the right. Photo: ESO

The CNEOS is responsible for making comprehensive assessments of near-Earth objects which pass near the planet. Continually updated calculations of orbital parameters, close approaches, and impact risks of asteroids are available on the website.

CNEOS provides a data page for every NEO, providing its parameters, approach summary, and an interactive orbit viewer which enables viewers to get a better view of the NEO. The parameters of each NEO are archived in the JPL Small-Body DataBase (SBDB).