• NASA detected a massive asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2008 TZ3 follows an Earth-crossing orbit
  • The asteroid is classified as potentially hazardous

NASA’s automated asteroid tracking system has spotted a massive asteroid that will approach Earth on Sunday (May 10). According to the data collected by the agency, the approaching asteroid is about as tall as a skyscraper.

NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies identified the incoming asteroid as 2008 TZ3. According to the agency, this asteroid is currently traveling across space towards Earth at an average speed of almost 20,000 miles per hour.

CNEOS estimated that 2008 TZ3 measures about 1,607 feet wide, making it almost as big as some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world such as the Taipei 101 in Taiwan and the Shanghai World Financial Center in China.

2008 TZ3 was first observed on Oct. 7, 2008. According to projections of its trajectory, the asteroid follows a wide orbit within the Solar System. It is known to go beyond the orbit of Mars. As the asteroid makes its way around the Sun, it occasionally intersects Earth’s path. This is the reason why it has been labeled as an Apollo asteroid.

Due to its massive size and Earth-crossing orbit, 2008 TZ3 is considered 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,” NASA explained in a statement. “Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 [astronomical units] or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less are considered potentially hazardous asteroids.”

Despite being labeled as a hazardous asteroid, CNEOS noted that 2008 TZ3 is not in danger of colliding with Earth during its upcoming visit. According to the agency’s database, 2008 TZ3 is expected to fly past Earth on May 10 at 9:17 a.m. EDT.

During its approach, the asteroid will be about 0.01897 astronomical units or roughly 1.7 million miles from the planet’s center.

After its visit this weekend, the asteroid’s next near-Earth flyby is expected to take place on May 15, 2022. It is expected to approach Earth from a much farther distance. According to NASA, the asteroid will fly past Earth from a distance of 0.03838 astronomical units or 3.6 million miles away.

This artist's animation illustrates a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star the same age and size as our Sun. NASA/JPL-Caltech