KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected a massive Earth-crossing asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2012 XA133 is the biggest asteroid to approach Earth this month
  • The approaching asteroid is big enough to cause a major impact event

NASA has detected the biggest asteroid that will approach Earth this month. According to the agency, the approaching potentially hazardous asteroid is bigger than the Empire State Building.

The incoming asteroid, identified as 2012 XA133, is currently being monitored by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). According to CNEOS, 2012 XA133 will be the biggest asteroid to fly past Earth this month. The agency estimated that it is about 1,280 feet wide, making it over 200 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

CNEOS noted that the asteroid is currently making its way across the Solar System and heading toward Earth at an incredible speed of almost 53,000 miles per hour.

After analyzing the asteroid’s natural orbit, NASA classified it as a member of the Apollo family of space rocks. According to the agency, this asteroid follows a wide path that extends beyond the orbit of Mars. Like other Apollos, 2012 XA133 is also known to intersect Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

Due to the asteroid’s dangerous Earth-crossing orbit and its massive size, it has been labeled by NASA as potentially hazardous. According to the agency, potentially hazardous asteroids are those that approach Earth from close distances and those that are big enough to cause major impact events.

“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],” the agency continued.

Given its size and speed, 2012 XA133 could destroy an entire city and even its surrounding areas if it ends up colliding with the planet.

According to CNEOS, 2012 XA133 is expected to cross Earth’s path on March 26 at 10:52 pm EST. During the asteroid’s near-Earth intersection, it will be about 0.04453 astronomical units from the planet’s center, which is equivalent to about 4.1 million miles away.

The asteroid is not expected to return to Earth’s vicinity until April 9, 2023.

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