KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected two asteroids approaching Earth
  • One of the asteroids is bigger than the Big Ben clock tower
  • Both asteroids could cause powerful airbursts

Two space rocks are expected to fly past Earth according to the data collected by NASA’s automated asteroid tracking system.  

The asteroids are currently being monitored through the database of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The first asteroid that will approach Earth on Friday (July 3) is known as 2020 MT2. This asteroid has an estimated diameter of 322 feet, which means it is larger than the Big Ben clock tower in London.

As indicated in CNEOS’ database, 2020 MT2 is currently flying across the Solar System towards Earth at an average velocity of almost 19,000 miles per hour.

Trailing behind 2020 MT2 is another asteroid known as 2020 MO. According to CNEOS, 2020 MO has a smaller diameter than 2020 MT2. It measures about 223 feet wide. Although it’s a bit smaller than 2020 MT2, it is traveling at a faster speed. CNEOS noted that 2020 MO would fly past Earth at a speed of over 21,000 miles per hour.

Both asteroids are big enough and fast enough to cause major mid-air explosions if they end up colliding with the planet. Instead of hitting the ground and causing an impact event, these two asteroids will most likely burn up in the atmosphere and explode in the sky.

Due to their size, these asteroids could cause powerful airbursts that have the same energy as multiple atomic bombs. Although they won’t hit the ground, their airbursts could still cause a lot of destruction.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2020 MT2 and 2020 MO are not in danger of hitting Earth during their upcoming visit. According to the agency, 2020 MT2 is expected to approach Earth at 5:22 a.m. EDT. During its approach, the asteroid will be about 0.04124 astronomical units or roughly 3.8 million miles from the planet’s center.

Like 2020 MT2, 2020 MO will also fly past Earth on Friday. According to CNEOS, the asteroid will safely fly past Earth at 7:05 a.m. EDT from a distance of 0.02389 astronomical units, which is equivalent to 2.2 million miles.

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