NASA is currently monitoring a potentially hazardous asteroid that’s currently heading for Earth. According to the agency’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroid is significantly larger than Apophis 99942, the space rock that’s predicted to hit Earth in the future.

The asteroid that CNEOS is currently tracking has been identified as 2006 QQ23. Based on the data collected by the agency, the asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of 10,400 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of 1,870 feet, making it almost twice as big as the 1,080-feet-long Apophis 99942 asteroid.

2006 QQ23 is expected to make its close-Earth approach on Aug. 10 at 3:23 am EDT. During this time, the asteroid will fly from a distance of 0.04977 astronomical units or around 4.6 million miles away.

Although it seems 2006 QQ23 will be flying far away from Earth during its approach, it has been labeled as a potentially hazardous asteroid by CNEOS due to its orbital path. According to the agency, 2006 QQ23 is an Aten asteroid, which means it orbits the Sun. As it moves around the massive star, 2006 QQ23’s orbit intersects with that of Earth at certain points.  

As for Apophis 99942, this asteroid gained international fame following its discovery in 2004. Back then, scientists predicted that the asteroid’s chances of colliding with Earth in 2029 were almost 3%. Because of this, it was given the name Apophis, which is a reference to the ancient Egyptian spirit of destruction, darkness, chaos and evil.

Further studies on the asteroid eventually ruled out an impact event in 2029. However, after focusing on other factors in space, scientists noted that Apophis 99942 could hit the planet during its return in 2036.

According to experts, this scenario could happen if the asteroid passes through a keyhole, which are large regions in space that are heavily affected by the gravitational pull of nearby planets.

If Apophis 99942 passes through one of these keyholes, the gravitational forces could affect its orbit and nudge it into a path that’s on a direct collision course with Earth.

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