NASA is currently tracking a giant potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) that is expected to approach Earth this week. Due to the asteroid’s speed and massive size, it is certainly capable of wiping out an entire city if it hits Earth.

According to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroid is known as 523934 (1998 FF14). It has been classified as an Apollo asteroid, which means it has a very wide orbit around the Sun and Earth. Occasionally, the asteroid’s orbit intersects with that of Earth as the planet travels around the giant star.

Due to the asteroid’s close intersections with Earth’s orbit, 523934 (1998 FF14) was labeled by CNEOS as potentially hazardous.

“Potentially hazardous asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” CNEOS explained. “Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 [astronomical units] or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less are considered PHAs.”

The agency noted that the asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of almost 50,000 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of about 1,410 feet, making it significantly bigger than the Empire State building.

Given the asteroid’s enormous size, it is capable of causing significant damage if it hits Earth. Unlike smaller asteroids that usually explode mid-air, 523934 (1998 FF14) will most likely go through Earth’s atmosphere and cause a massive impact event. If the asteroid hits the planet, it can create a crater that’s about a few miles wide and level an area as big as a city.

523934 (1998 FF14) is larger than the asteroid that exploded over Russia’s Podkamennaya Tunguska River in 1908. That asteroid, which was about 164 to 620 feet wide, detonated at an altitude of 5 to 6 miles from the ground. The resulting explosion flattened an area that’s about 770 square miles, which is bigger than the city of Butte, Montana.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that Earth is not currently in danger of getting hit by 523934 (1998 FF14). According to the agency, the asteroid will approach Earth on Sept. 24 at 3:27 am EDT. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.02780 astronomical units or roughly 2.6 million miles away.

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