NASA has detected a massive asteroid that’s big enough to wipe out an entire city if it causes an impact event on Earth. According to the space agency, the asteroid is expected to approach the planet in less than a week before Christmas.

The approaching asteroid has been identified by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 216258 (2006 WH1). With an estimated diameter of 1,772 feet, 216258 (2006 WH1) is significantly taller than the Empire State Building. It is regarded as one of the biggest asteroids to approach Earth this year.

According to CNEOS, the asteroid is currently moving towards Earth at an average speed of about 26,000 miles per hour. The agency classified 216258 (2006 WH1) as an Apollo asteroid. This means that like other Apollos, 216258 (2006 WH1)’s orbit is very wide and goes around both the Earth and the Sun. Occasionally, the asteroid’s orbit intersects with that of Earth as the planet completes its cycle around the giant star.

Due to the 216258 (2006 WH1)’s immense size and natural orbit, it has been classified by CNEOS as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

“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 PHAs,” the agency added.

With the asteroid’s size and current speed, 216258 (2006 WH1) is certainly capable of causing high levels of destruction if it ends up colliding with Earth. If it hits the planet, the explosion from the asteroid’s impact can easily wipe out an entire city. If the asteroid ends up striking the ocean, the impact would generate towering tsunamis that can level coastal areas several miles away.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that the asteroid will completely miss Earth during its upcoming approach. According to the agency, 216258 (2006 WH1) will fly past Earth on Dec. 20 at 11:17 am EDT. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.03904 astronomical units or roughly 3.6 million miles from the planet’s center.

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