KEY POINTS

  • The ESA added a new asteroid to its Risk List
  • Asteroid larger than the Golden Gate Bridge towers is big enough to cause a major impact event
  • 2020 PB1 has a chance of hitting Earth in 2029

The European Space Agency (ESA) has identified a new asteroid that has a chance of colliding with Earth and causing an impact event in the future. According to the agency’s data, the asteroid might hit the planet before the decade ends.

The asteroid has been identified by the ESA as 2020 PB1. It is the latest addition to the agency’s Risk List, which is a catalog of asteroids that have non-zero Earth impact probabilities. This means that the asteroids on the list have chances of hitting Earth in the future.

According to the ESA, 2020 PB1 has an estimated diameter of 755 feet. Given its size, this asteroid is bigger than the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge in California, which stands at a height of 745 feet.

The ESA noted that 2020 PB1 has a chance of colliding with Earth on Nov. 12, 2029. The agency predicted that the asteroid might hit the planet while traveling at a speed of over 32,000 miles per hour.

The asteroid’s chances of crashing into Earth depend on various factors in space, such as a gravitational keyhole. This is a region in space that’s heavily affected by the gravitational pull of a large cosmic object.

If an asteroid goes through a keyhole, a nearby planet’s gravitation pull could alter the space rock’s path. This could nudge the asteroid into a collision course with Earth.

Based on the asteroid’s size and speed, 2020 PB1 is capable of causing a major impact event on Earth if it ends up hitting the planet.

Fortunately, the ESA noted that the asteroid’s chances of colliding with Earth in 2029 are pretty slim. The agency estimated that the odds of 2020 PB1 hitting Earth in the near future are one out of 53 million.

If the asteroid doesn’t end up on a direct collision course with the planet in 2029, its upcoming near-Earth visit will take place on Dec. 8, 2061. During this time, the asteroid will safely fly past Earth from a distance of about 0.11855 astronomical units, which is equivalent to roughly 11 million miles.

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