KEY POINTS

  • The ESA added a new asteroid to its Risk List
  • 2020 MO1 follows an Earth-crossing orbit
  • The asteroid has a chance of hitting Earth in the future

The European Space Agency (ESA) has identified a new asteroid that has a chance of hitting Earth in the future. As a result, the asteroid has been added to the agency’s Risk List.

The ESA’s Risk List is a catalog of near-Earth objects that have non-zero impact probabilities. This means that all asteroids featured on this list have chances of colliding with Earth in the future.

One of the newest additions to the list is an asteroid known as 2020 MO1. As of press time, the asteroid has been part of the Risk List for only six days.

According to the data collected by the ESA, 2020 MO1 has an estimated diameter of almost 230 feet, which is about as long as the wingspan of a Boeing 747 plane. ESA noted that 2020 MO1 could collide with Earth at an impact velocity of almost 47,000 miles per hour.

The ESA noted that 2020 MO1 follows an elongated orbit around the Sun and follows a trajectory that extends beyond that of Mars. Occasionally, the asteroid intersects Earth’s orbit as it completes its journey around the Sun. Due to its orbital axis and Earth-crossing path, 2020 MOI has been classified as an Apollo asteroid.

Although asteroids that are as big as 2020 MO1 usually cause mid-air explosions instead of hitting the ground, this asteroid’s speed could enable it to cause an impact event on Earth if it were to hit the planet.

The resulting impact from the asteroid would leave a crater that’s about a mile wide. The blast from the impact would have enough energy to destroy a large area.

Although there’s a chance that an impact event could happen, ESA noted that 2020 MO1’s chances of colliding with Earth are slim. According to the agency, the potential impact event could happen on July 3, 2059.

As noted by the ESA, the asteroid’s chances of hitting Earth on this date are 1 out of 2.2 million. Before its potential impact date, the asteroid will first fly past Earth on Friday, July 10, 2020. During this time, the asteroid will fly past the planet from a very safe distance of 0.10260 astronomical units, which is equivalent to about 9.5 million miles away.

Asteroid Impact September 2015 Will an asteroid impact Earth in September? Photo: Donald Davis