• NASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth
  • 2020 HL6 is as big as a standard bus
  • The asteroid follows an Earth-crossing orbit

An asteroid almost as big as a standard passenger bus is expected to fly past Earth on Wednesday (May 6). According to the data collected by NASA, the approaching asteroid follows a natural orbit that crosses Earth’s path.

NASA is currently tracking the incoming asteroid through its Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). As indicated in CNEOS’s database, the approaching asteroid is known as 2020 HL6.

CNEOS estimated that the incoming asteroid has an estimated diameter of about 49 feet. It is currently traveling across the Solar System towards Earth at a speed of about 12,000 miles per hour.

2020 HL6 was first observed on April 19. After analyzing its trajectory, NASA classified 2020 HL6 as an Apollo asteroid. This means that the asteroid follows a very wide orbit within the Solar System. From time to time, it intersects Earth’s path as the planet completes its cycle around the Sun.

Aside from Earth, the asteroid is also known to closely approach Mars.

The last time that 2020 HL6 approached Earth was on Jan. 30, 2017. During this time, the asteroid flew past the planet from a distance of 0.49613 astronomical units, which is equivalent to 46 million miles away.

On Wednesday, the asteroid is expected to approach Earth from a much closer distance. According to CNEOS, 2020 HL6 will intersect Earth’s trajectory on May 6 at 12:38 p.m. EDT. The asteroid will be about 0.00535 astronomical units or 497,000 miles from the planet’s center during its near-Earth intersection. This is almost equivalent to twice the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Although the asteroid will approach from a much closer distance compared to other near-Earth objects, it is not in danger of colliding with Earth and causing an impact event. Aside from flying past Earth from thousands of miles away, the approaching asteroid is not big and fast enough to go through Earth’s atmosphere and hit the ground.

In the unlikely event that the asteroid hits Earth, it will most likely heat up and break apart upon entering the atmosphere due to its size and speed.

Image: Artist illustration of an asteroid heading for the Earth Pixabay