KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected two asteroids approaching Earth called 2020 QC and 2020 PS
  • Both asteroids will fly past Earth on Tuesday
  • The approaching asteroids follow Earth-crossing orbits

NASA’s automated asteroid tracking system has detected two near-Earth objects that are currently moving toward Earth. According to the data collected by the agency, one of the approaching asteroids is as big as a building.

The asteroids flying toward Earth are being monitored through NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The first asteroid that’s set to approach Earth on Tuesday has been identified as 2020 QC.

According to CNEOS, this asteroid has an estimated diameter of 66 feet. It is currently flying toward Earth at an average speed of over 42,000 miles per hour.

Trailing behind 2020 QC is an asteroid called 2020 PS. Compared to 2020 QC, 2020 PS is approaching Earth at a much slower speed.

This asteroid is traveling across space at an average velocity of almost 20,000 miles per hour. CNEOS estimated that 2020 PS measures about 272 feet wide. Given its size, the asteroid is nearly the size of the Statue of Liberty, which stands at a height of about 305 feet.

Both asteroids were first observed this month. After studying their trajectories, NASA was able to create projections of their flight paths across the Solar System.

According to the orbit diagrams created by NASA for 2020 QC and 2020 PS, both asteroids follow elongated orbits around the sun.  As indicated in the diagrams, the two asteroids are known to reach the plane between Mars and Jupiter. From time to time, the two asteroids intersect the orbits of Mars and Earth.

Due to their wide orbital axes and Earth-crossing natural orbits, both 2020 QC and 2020 PS have been classified as members of the Apollo family of asteroids.

According to CNEOS, 2020 QC is expected to fly past Earth on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. EDT at a distance of about 0.00524 astronomical units or 487,000 miles. This is equivalent to about twice the distance between the Earth and the moon.

After 2020 QC’s flyby, Earth’s vicinity will be visited by 2020 PS on Tuesday at 7:11 p.m. EDT. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.01598 astronomical units or roughly 1.5 million miles from the planet’s center.

Two Very Different Asteroids Image of two different asteroids captured by NASA. Photo: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL