KEY POINTS

  • The ESA added a new asteroid to its Risk List
  • 2020 PG6 has a chance of hitting Earth in 2029
  • The asteroid could cause a powerful airburst

The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently monitoring an asteroid that has a good chance of colliding with Earth in the near future. Based on the size of the asteroid, it most likely won’t cause a major impact event if it ends up hitting the planet.

The approaching asteroid was recently included on the ESA’s Risk List, which is a catalog of known near-Earth objects with non-zero impact probabilities. This means that all the asteroids featured on the list have chances of colliding with Earth.

ESA’s newly added asteroid is known as 2020 PG6. According to the data gathered by the agency, this asteroid measures about 46 feet wide. This asteroid is about as big as a semi-trailer, which spans around 48 feet long.

The asteroid is expected to fly past Earth on Sept. 2. During its approach, the asteroid will be about 0.01518 astronomical units or roughly 1.4 million miles from the planet’s surface.

According to the ESA, 2020 PG6 has a chance of colliding with Earth on Aug. 31, 2029. The agency estimated that the asteroid might hit Earth during this date at an average speed of over 29,000 miles per hour.

The ESA calculated that 2020 PG6’s chances of hitting Earth in 2029 are one out of 416. Compared to the other asteroids on the Risk List, 2020 PG6 is one of the space rocks with the highest chances of colliding with Earth in the future.

If 2020 PG6 ends up on a direct collision course with Earth, it probably won’t cause a direct impact event due to its size. Instead of hitting the ground, the asteroid will most likely explode mid-air, just like the space rock that produced a powerful airburst over Russia in 2013.

During that time, an asteroid that measured about 66 feet long entered Earth and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk after burning up in the atmosphere. According to initial investigations, the energy released by the blast was equivalent to about 30 atomic bombs. Although the explosion happened in the air, it was still powerful enough to damage over 7,000 buildings on the ground.

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