KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected an asteroid that could hit Earth
  • 2008 UB7 could cause 31 potential impacts
  • The asteroid is fast enough to cause an impact event

NASA’s impact monitoring system has detected a total of 31 potential collisions from an approaching asteroid. Based on the asteroid’s size and velocity, it could cause an impact event if it collides with Earth.

The asteroid, identified as 2008 UB7, was detected by NASA’s automated system known as Sentry. This system identifies asteroids that have non-zero impact probabilities on Earth, which means all space rocks featured in its database have the potential to hit the planet.

According to NASA, 2008 UB7 measures about 190 feet wide, making it taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Based on its current trajectory, Sentry estimated that 2008 UB7 could hit Earth with an impact velocity of over 48,000 miles per hour.

NASA noted that 2008 UB7 is an Apollo asteroid. According to the agency, the asteroid follows an elongated trajectory that extends into the planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. As it completes its cycle around the Sun, it intersects the orbits of other planets including Mars, Earth and Venus.

Due to numerous factors including its current speed and Earth-crossing orbit, Sentry detected a total of 31 potential impacts from the asteroid. These possible collisions with Earth could happen between 2048 and 2100. According to Sentry, 2008 UB7’s first possible impact with Earth might take place on Oct. 31, 2048.

Normally, asteroids as big as 2008 UB7 break apart and explode in the atmosphere instead of hitting the ground during a collision. Unfortunately, since there’s a chance that the asteroid could collide with the planet with an impact velocity that’s over 48,000 miles per hour, 2008 UB7 could end up hitting the ground.

Given its size and speed, a ground impact from the asteroid would be powerful enough to affect its immediate surroundings. The energy that would be released from its explosion could level a village or town.

According to NASA, 2008 UB7’S upcoming close-approach will take place on June 29, 2021 at 3:42 pm EDT. During this time, the asteroid will intersect Earth’s orbit from a distance of 0.45434 astronomical units, which is equivalent to about 42 billion miles away.