• NASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2020 HK3 is almost as big as the Statue of Liberty
  • The asteroid follows an Earth-crossing orbit

NASA’s automated asteroid tracking system has detected a near-Earth object that’s expected to safely fly past the planet on Thursday (April 30). The asteroid is currently listed in a database maintained by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Based on the data collected by CNEOS, the approaching asteroid is known as 2020 HK3. It has an estimated diameter of about 279 feet, making it almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

Currently, the asteroid is making its way around the Sun and toward Earth at an average speed of over 52,000 miles per hour.

After analyzing the asteroid’s trajectory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory noted that 2020 HK3 follows an elongated orbit around the Sun. As it completes its cycle, the asteroid occasionally intersects the orbits of various planets, including Venus, Earth and Mars.

2020 HK3 has been labeled as a member of the Apollo family of asteroids because of its Earth-crossing orbit. Due to its natural orbit around the planet, 2020 HK3 has also been labeled as a near-Earth object.

As indicated in CNEOS’ database, 2020 HK3 is expected to cross Earth’s path on April 30 at 8:05 p.m. EDT. As the asteroid cuts through Earth’s orbit, it will fly past the planet from a distance of about 0.01121 astronomical units, or roughly 1 million miles away.

A couple of minutes after its near-Earth approach, the asteroid is expected to zip past the Moon from about 0.00906 astronomical units or around 842,000 miles away.

2020 HK3 is not expected to return to Earth’s vicinity until April 21, 2022. During this time, the asteroid will approach Earth from a distance of about 0.19574 astronomical units, which is equivalent to 18 million miles.

As the asteroid continues to move away from Earth, it will fly past Venus on July 6, 2022, from a distance of 0.02483 astronomical units or 2.3 million miles away.

“Near-Earth objects are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood,” NASA explained in a statement.

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