KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth
  • The asteroid is bigger than the Statue of Liberty
  • The asteroid could cause an impact event due to its size

NASA’s asteroid tracking system has spotted a massive near-Earth object bigger than the Statue of Liberty approaching Earth. Based on its size, it could cause an impact event on Earth if it collides with the planet.

The approaching asteroid was detected by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Identified as 2020 DE3, this asteroid is currently traveling across space and toward Earth at a speed of over 20,000 miles per hour.

According to CNEOS, 2020 DE3 measures about 328 feet wide. Given its size, the asteroid is almost as long as an American football field.

2020 DE3 is an Apollo asteroid that follows an elongated orbit the Solar System. According to NASA’s projections, this asteroid is known to travel across the plane between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. As the asteroid reaches its closest point from the Sun, it intersects Earth’s trajectory.

If the asteroid ends up colliding with the planet during one of its near-Earth intersections, it will cause a moderate level of destruction. Given its size and current speed, the asteroid is capable of penetrating the atmosphere and causing an impact event on Earth.

If this happens, the impact from the asteroid will leave a crater less than a mile wide on the ground. It would generate a powerful explosion with enough energy that can instantly destroy the area surrounding the point of impact.

If the asteroid ends up hitting the ocean instead of the ground, it will generate towering tsunamis. These tsunamis would be powerful enough to wipe out nearby coastal areas.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2020 DE3 would fly past Earth from a very safe distance later this week. According to the agency, the asteroid is expected to intersect Earth’s path on Feb. 28, 2020. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.02506 astronomical units or around 2.3 million miles from the planet’s center.

Since the asteroid follows an elongated orbit that goes beyond Mars, 2020 DE3 is not expected to return to Earth’s vicinity until May 4, 2023. On its future visit, the asteroid will approach Earth from a distance of 0.40440 astronomical units or about 38 million miles away.

asteroids_passing_earth Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA