NASA has spotted an asteroid that will dangerously approach Earth at a distance much closer than the Moon. If the approaching asteroid ends up hitting the planet, it will most likely create a huge explosion in the sky.

The incoming asteroid has been identified by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 2011 ES4. According to the agency, the space rock has an estimated diameter of about 141 feet. It is currently traveling at a speed of around 18,700 miles per hour.

CNEOS classified the 2011 ES4 as an Apollo asteroid. Like other asteroids that belong to this family, 2011 ES4 has a very wide orbit around the Earth and the Sun. From time to time, the asteroid’s orbit intersects with that of Earth as the planet completes its cycle around the Sun.

According to the agency, a near-collision will occur between Earth and 2011 ES4 on Sept. 1, 2020 at 10:49 a.m. EDT. During this time, the asteroid will dangerously fly past Earth from a distance of only 0.00052 astronomical units or around 78,000 kilometers away.

This means the asteroid will approach Earth at a much closer distance than the Moon, which is located about 363,000 kilometers from the planet.

If the asteroid’s trajectory gets slightly affected by the gravitational forces in space as it makes its way towards Earth, it could end up on a collision course with the planet. If this happens, the asteroid will most likely burn up and explode in the atmosphere instead of hitting the ground.

Unfortunately, as previous incidents have shown, airbursts caused by asteroids can still be very dangerous. Back in 2013, an asteroid that was about 66 feet wide exploded over Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast region.

According to experts, the energy from the explosion caused by the asteroid was equivalent to 500 kilotons of TNT or about 30 atomic bombs. Even though the bulk of the explosion was absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, it was still powerful enough to reach the ground. Reports indicated that the blast damaged about 7,000 buildings and injured around 1,500 people within the surrounding area.

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