KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected a massive asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2020 ND is almost as big as the Eiffel Tower
  • The asteroid follows an Earth-crossing orbit

NASA has detected a potentially hazardous asteroid that’s currently moving towards Earth. According to the data collected by the agency’s asteroid tracker, the approaching space rock follows an Earth-intersecting orbit.

The incoming asteroid was detected by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). It was identified as 2020 ND.

With an estimated diameter of 984 feet, 2020 ND is the biggest asteroid to approach Earth this month. Given its massive size, the asteroid is almost as big as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which stands at 1,060 feet tall.

According to CNEOS, 2020 ND is currently traveling across space at an average velocity of over 30,000 miles per hour.

2020 ND was first observed on May 19. After analyzing its trajectory, NASA was able to create an orbit diagram for the asteroid. As indicated in the diagram, the asteroid follows a wide orbit that extends into the plane between Mars and Jupiter.

As the asteroid completes its cycle around the Sun, it occasionally intersects the path of Earth. Due to its Earth-crossing orbit, it has been labeled as a member of the Apollo family of asteroids.

As noted by NASA, 2020 ND is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid due to its orbital path and massive size. If this asteroid ends up hitting Earth, it will cause a destructive impact event on the planet.

“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].

According to CNEOS, 2020 ND is expected to safely fly past Earth on Friday at 6:13 a.m. EDT. During its approach, the massive space rock will be about 0.03723 astronomical units from the planet’s surface, which is equivalent to about 3.7 million miles away.

2020 ND’s next near-Earth approach will take place on July 9, 2035. It will fly past the planet from a distance of 0.19042 astronomical units or about 18 million miles away.

Asteroid Image: Artist illustration of an asteroid heading for the Earth Photo: Pixabay