An asteroid bigger than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is on a near-collision path with Earth. According to NASA, the asteroid is expected to approach the planet on Friday.

The space agency’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) noted that the name of the approaching asteroid is 2019 NJ2. It has been classified by the agency as an Apollo near-Earth object due to its orbit.

As explained by CNEOS, Apollo asteroids are space rocks that have very wide orbits around the Sun and Earth. From time to time, the orbit of these types of asteroids intersects with that of Earth as it goes around the Sun.

According to CNEOS, the orbit of 2019 NJ2 may have been affected by the gravitational pull from other nearby cosmic bodies such as planets. Due to these gravitational forces, the asteroid may have ended up on a trajectory path that brings it close to Earth once in a while.

Based on the data collected by CNEOS, 2019 NJ2 is about 207 feet long, making it almost as wide as the wingspan of a Boeing 747 airplane. The agency estimated that the asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of 13.46 kilometer per second or around 30,000 miles per hour.

The asteroid is expected to fly close to Earth on July 19 at 7:53 pm ST. During its approach, the asteroid will be about 0.03421 astronomical units or roughly 3.2 million miles from the Earth’s center.

2019 NJ2 was first observed on June 29. Based on detailed studies regarding its trajectory, CNEOS was able to discover that the asteroid previously approached Venus on Dec. 27, 1952. During this time, the asteroid flew from a distance of 0.14116 astronomical units or about 13 million miles away from the planet’s center.

2019 NJ2 is not expected to return to Earth’s neighborhood for a very long time. According to CNEOS’ projections, the asteroid’s next visit will take place on July 7, 2119. It is expected to approach Earth from a distance of 0.25594 astronomical units or roughly 23.8 million miles from the planet’s center during its approach.

asteroids_passing_earth Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA