KEY POINTS

  • An asteroid is expected to approach Earth tomorrow
  • The approaching asteroid is as big as the Chelyabinsk meteor
  • It could cause a powerful mid-air explosion 

NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has spotted an asteroid that’s currently approaching Earth. Based on the data collected by the agency, the asteroid is as big as the meteor that caused a violent explosion over Russia in 2013.

The incoming asteroid has been identified as 2020 CF. It is classified as an Apollo asteroid, which means it follows a natural orbit that occasionally crosses Earth’s path.

 According to CNEOS, this asteroid is currently approaching the planet at a speed of almost 12,000 miles per hour. Compared to other asteroids that zip past the planet, 2020 CF is not moving very fast.

Also, the approaching asteroid is not that big. As indicated in the agency’s database, 2020 CF has an estimated diameter of about 66 feet, which means it is as big as the meteor that detonated over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013.

During this incident, the meteor exploded in the sky at a height of around 97,000 feet from the ground. The blast produced a bright flash and released energy equivalent to about 30 atomic bombs. Although the explosion happened mid-air, it still caused a lot of damage on the ground.

According to reports, the meteor’s explosion damaged over 7,000 buildings in the city. About 1,500 people were also seriously injured by the effects of the blast.

Aside from the meteor’s size, another factor that contributed to the intensity of its explosion is its atmospheric velocity, or its speed when it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Reports indicated that the meteor went through the atmosphere at speeds of about 42,900 miles per hour.

Since 2020 CF is not as fast as the Chelyabinsk meteor, it most likely won’t be as destructive when it hits Earth. Although it could still cause a powerful airburst, the explosion most likely won’t happen near the ground.

According to CNEOS, 2020 CF is expected to approach Earth on Feb. 12 at 9:55 am EST. During this time, the asteroid will fly past Earth from a distance of 0.0376 astronomical units, which is equivalent to around 3.5 million miles away.

asteroids_passing_earth Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA