• NASA detected an asteroid that’s approaching Earth
  • 2020 HB6 is almost as big as the Statue of Liberty
  • The asteroid follows an Earth-crossing orbit

NASA has detected a massive asteroid that’s expected to safely fly past Earth on Friday (May 8). Based on the data gathered by the agency, the asteroid follows a natural orbit that crosses Earth’s path.

The approaching asteroid is currently being monitored by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). CNEOS has identified the incoming asteroid to be 2020 HB6. It has an estimated diameter of 289 feet. Given its massive size, the asteroid is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty or the Big Ben clock tower in London.

CNEOS has learned that 2020 HB6 is currently moving across the Solar System toward Earth at an average velocity of over 20,000 miles per hour.

2020 HB6 was first observed on April 24. After studying the asteroid’s trajectory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory learned that it follows a wide orbit within the Solar System. The asteroid’s trajectory model indicates that it intersects Mars and Earth’s orbits from time to time. It is also known to closely approach the planet Venus.

Due to its Earth-crossing natural orbit, 2020 HB6 has been classified as an Apollo asteroid.

According to the data collected by CNEOS on the asteroid’s trajectory, 2020 HB6 is set to intersect Earth’s orbit on May 8 at 4:52 p.m. EDT. As the asteroid traverses Earth’s path, it will be about 0.02507 astronomical units or 2.3 million miles from the planet’s center.

The last time 2020 HB6 was in Earth’s neighborhood was on Sept. 2, 2015. During that time, the asteroid flew past the planet from a distance of 0.13387 astronomical units, which is equivalent to about 12 million miles away.

After tomorrow’s visit, the asteroid’s next near-Earth flyby will occur later this year. According to NASA, 2020 HB6 is expected to fly past the planet on Oct. 2. Unlike its upcoming visit, the asteroid’s flyby later this year will happen from a much farther distance.

As noted by the agency, the asteroid will fly past Earth in October from a distance of 0.40760 astronomical units or roughly 38 million miles away.

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