• NASA is anticipating almost 470 Earth impacts from an approaching asteroid
  • 2012 HG2 has a natural Earth-crossing orbit
  • The asteroid is not big enough to cause an impact event

NASA reported that it has detected a near-Earth asteroid that has the potential to hit Earth almost 470 times. Given the asteroid’s size, it would most likely cause a violent mid-air explosion instead of a major impact event.

According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the dangerous asteroid has been identified as 2012 HG2. It has an estimated diameter of around 46 feet and travels across the Solar System at an average speed of about 26,000 miles per hour.

2012 HG2 is an Apollo asteroid. This means it follows a natural orbit that intersects Earth’s path as it travels around the Sun.

After studying the asteroid’s trajectory, CNEOS discovered that the asteroid has the potential to cause 469 impact scenarios on Earth. Because of this, the asteroid was added to a watch list maintained by NASA’s Sentry, which is an automated impact monitoring system. Currently, 2012 HG2 has the highest number of potential impacts on the list.

According to the data presented by Sentry, 2012 HG2’s first potential Earth impact could happen on Feb. 12, 2052. If it doesn’t hit Earth on this date, it could do so on Feb. 11, 2053. As indicated in Sentry’s database, the asteroid’s potential impacts on Earth are expected to happen on almost a yearly basis from 2052 until 2119.

Apart from these near-collisions, NASA was also able to determine when the asteroid will fly past Earth. According to CNEOS, 2012 HG2 will zip past the planet on Feb. 12, 2047 at 9:25 a.m. EST from a distance of 0.00096 astronomical units or roughly 89,000 miles away. This is equivalent to less than half the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Based on the asteroid’s size and average speed, it most likely won’t be able to cause an impact event on Earth during a collision. Instead, the asteroid would probably burn up in Earth’s atmosphere and explode mid-air.

The energy that would be released from the asteroid’s airburst would be equivalent to multiple atomic bombs. Although most of the energy would be absorbed by the atmosphere, the blast would still be powerful enough to cause structural damages to buildings on the ground.

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