• NASA detected an asteroid that's moving toward Earth
  • 2020 OL4 is larger than the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • 2020 OL4 is big enough to cause a powerful airburst

NASA has spotted a massive building-sized asteroid that’s currently flying toward Earth. According to the data collected by the agency, the incoming asteroid will intersect Earth’s orbit on Saturday.

The approaching asteroid was identified by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 2020 OL4. As indicated in CNEOS’ database, this asteroid has an estimated diameter of about 210 feet. Due to its size, the asteroid is significantly larger than the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, which stands at 185 feet high.

According to CNEOS, 2020 OL4 will fly past Earth at an average velocity of over 24,000 miles per hour.

2020 OL4 was first observed on July 23. Through observations on the asteroid’s trajectory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was able to create an orbit diagram that shows 2020 OL4’s path across the Solar System.

As indicated in the diagram, 2020 OL4 follows a wide orbit around the Sun that extends beyond that of Mars. As the asteroid completes its cycle around the massive star, it occasionally intersects the path of Earth. Due to its wide orbital axis and Earth-intersecting trajectory, 2020 OL4 was classified as an Apollo asteroid.

2020 OL4’s next near-Earth intersection is expected to happen on Saturday at 4:28 p.m. EDT. If 2020 OL4 were to end up colliding with Earth during its visit, it could cause a powerful airburst close to the ground. Although it won’t cause an impact event and hit the ground, the energy that would be generated by its explosion would be powerful enough to destroy solid structures.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2020 OL4 is not in danger of hitting the planet during its upcoming near-Earth approach. According to CNEOS, the incoming asteroid will be about 0.02441 astronomical units or roughly 2.3 million miles from the center of the planet as it intersects Earth’s orbit on Saturday.

After this week’s visit, 2020 OL4 will not return to Earth’s vicinity until July 18, 2022. NASA predicted that the asteroid would fly past Earth from a distance of 0.34883 astronomical units or about 32 million miles from the planet during its future visit.

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