• NASA detected an asteroid that will approach Earth tomorrow
  • The approaching asteroid could cause a powerful airburst
  • The energy from the asteroid's explosion could be equivalent to several atomic bombs

NASA warned that an asteroid will dangerously approach Earth tomorrow. If the incoming space rock hits Earth, it could cause a powerful explosion equivalent to multiple atomic bombs in the planet’s atmosphere.

According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroid has been identified as 2019 XO3. As indicated in the agency’s database, this asteroid has an estimated diameter of about 128 feet and is currently flying towards Earth at a speed of over 21,000 miles per hour.

2019 XO3 belongs to a family of asteroids known as Apollo. Similar to other Apollo asteroids, 2019 XO3 follows a very wide orbit within the Solar System. As it travels around the Sun, it occasionally intersects the paths of several planets including Mars, Venus, Mercury and Earth.

The approaching asteroid’s near-Earth intersection is expected to take place on Dec. 18 at 3:33 pm EST. During this time, the asteroid will only be about 0.00833 astronomical units or roughly 774,000 miles from the planet’s center. This is equivalent to about three times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

If the asteroid’s trajectory slightly changes due to various factors in space, it could easily end up on a collision course with the planet. One of the factors that can cause this is a gravitational keyhole. This is a specific region in space that’s affected by the gravitational pull of a large object such as a planet.

If the asteroid passes through a keyhole before it reaches Earth, it could get nudged into a direct path to the planet.

Although the asteroid is pretty massive, it is not traveling fast enough to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, it will most likely burn up in the atmosphere and explode in the sky before reaching Earth.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that the asteroid is completely harmless. Given its size, the energy that would be released by 2019 XO3’s explosion could be equivalent to 40 to 60 atomic bombs. Even if just a small percentage of that energy reaches Earth, it would be powerful enough damage concrete structures and injure people on the ground.

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