• NASA detected a small asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2020 HN3 follows an Earth-crossing orbit

NASA has detected a small asteroid that’s expected to fly close to Earth on Saturday (April 25). According to the data collected by the agency, the asteroid is following a natural trajectory that intersects Earth’s path.

The approaching asteroid is currently being monitored by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). As per the agency, the asteroid, which has been identified as 2020 HN3, is currently flying across space and moving toward Earth at a speed of almost 10,000 miles per hour.

CNEOS estimated that the asteroid measures about 24 feet wide. Given its size and speed, the asteroid is not in danger of causing an impact event even if it hits Earth. Instead of hitting the ground, the asteroid will most likely break apart and explode in the sky after going through the planet’s atmosphere.

According to CNEOS, 2020 HN3 is expected to intersect Earth’s orbit on Saturday at 9:18 p.m. EDT. As it passes through Earth’s path, the asteroid will be about 0.00592 astronomical units or around 550,000 miles from the planet’s surface. This is equivalent to about twice the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

2020 HN3 was first observed on April 19. After analyzing its trajectory, NASA learned that the asteroid follows a wide orbit around the Sun. It is known to reach the plane between the orbits of Earth and Mars. Occasionally, the asteroid intersects Earth’s orbit as the planet completes its cycle around the Sun.

Due to its natural Earth-crossing orbit, 2020 HN3 has been classified by NASA as an Apollo asteroid.

The last time the asteroid visited Earth’s vicinity was on April 17, 2019. According to NASA, the asteroid approached Earth from a much farther distance at the time. As noted by the agency, 2020 HN3 flew past Earth from a distance of about 0.21348 astronomical units or around 20 million miles away.

After its upcoming visit, the asteroid will not return to Earth’s neighborhood until March 2, 2021. During this time, the asteroid is expected to approach the planet from a distance of 0.13819 astronomical units, which is equivalent to about 13 million miles away.

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