NASA has spotted an asteroid that will come dangerously close to Earth next week. If the approaching asteroid gets slightly nudged off its present course, it could end up hitting the planet.

The approaching asteroid has been identified by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 2019 VN. According to the agency, this asteroid is currently moving towards Earth at an impressive velocity of 30,000 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of about 174 feet.

2019 VN is expected to fly past Earth on Nov. 11 at 10:49 a.m. EST. During its approach, the asteroid will only be about 0.00788 astronomical units or roughly 732,000 miles from the planet’s center. This is equivalent to just around three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

CNEOS indicated that 2019 VN is an Apollo asteroid. Like other Apollos, 2019 VN has a wide orbit that takes it around the Sun and the Earth. From time to time, 2019 VN’s orbit intersects with that of Earth.

Due to the asteroid’s near-intersections with Earth, a slight nudge on the space rock could significantly alter its course. This can be caused by a number of factors in space such as a gravitational keyhole. This is a region in space that’s heavily affected by the gravitational pull of a nearby planet. If 2019 VN goes through this keyhole, the gravitational forces could alter the asteroid’s trajectory and send it crashing to Earth.

Another factor that could change the asteroid’s path is the Yarkovsky effect. This occurs when the light emitted by the Sun heats up one side of the asteroid, causing the space rock to spin irregularly. This could send the asteroid on a collision course with the planet.

Since the asteroid is traveling fast enough and has a relatively large diameter, there’s a chance that it would penetrate Earth’s atmosphere instead of exploding mid-air. Aside from its size and speed, the asteroid’s angle of entry could also cause a direct Earth impact.

Although the asteroid has a chance of causing an impact event, 2019 VN is not large enough to create a massive crater and level an entire city.

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