NASA has detected a massive asteroid that will approach Earth at a very dangerous distance. According to the agency’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid will be less than a fifth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon during its approach.

The approaching asteroid has been identified by CNEOS as 2019 OK. It is currently moving at a speed of 55,000 miles per hour and is estimated to be about 426 feet long. Given its size, the asteroid is almost as big as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

CNEOS estimated that the near-Earth object will approach the planet on July 25 at 1:22 am ST. During its approach, 2019 OK is expected to be about 0.00048 astronomical units or roughly 45,000 miles from the planet’s center.

To put this figure into perspective, the distance between the Earth and the Moon is about 239,000 miles. This means that at 45,000 miles, 2019 OK will be on a near-collision course with Earth.

Before flying past Earth, the asteroid will first approach the Moon on July 25 at 12:47 am ST. It will be about 0.00226 astronomical units or around 210,000 miles from the Moon during its approach.

2019 OK was first observed on June 28. According to the data compiled by CNEOS, the asteroid frequently visits the neighborhoods of Earth and Venus. The first instance it flew past Earth was on July 6, 1981. During this time, it approached the planet from a distance of 0.34104 astronomical units or 32 million miles away.

The next time 2019 OK will fly past Earth will be on Oct. 3, 2024. It will zip past the planet at a much farther distance of 0.49482 astronomical units or about 46 million miles away.

The varying distances of 2019 OK’s close-Earth approaches clearly indicate that the asteroid’s trajectory is getting affected by various factors in space. One of these could be gravitational keyholes. These are regions in space that are largely affected by the gravitational pull of nearby planets.

Since 2019 OK frequently approaches other planets, it is possible that the asteroid’s trajectory may have been affected by these massive cosmic objects.   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