KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected an approaching asteroid set to safely fly past Earth on Monday
  • 2020 PU1 follows an Earth-crossing orbit
  • The asteroid is capable of causing a powerful airburst

NASA’s automated asteroid tracking system has detected a near-Earth object that’s moving toward Earth. According to the agency, the approaching asteroid is expected to fly safely past the planet on Monday.

The asteroid is currently being monitored through the database of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). It was identified as 2020 PU1.

According to CNEOS, 2020 PU1 measures about 85 feet wide. It is currently flying across space toward Earth at a speed of almost 19,000 miles per hour.

2020 PU1 was first observed on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Through observations on its trajectory across the Solar System, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was able to create an orbit diagram depicting the asteroid’s flight path.

As indicated in the diagram, 2020 PU1 follows a wide path around the sun that extends beyond the orbit of Mars. Occasionally, the asteroid intersects the orbits of Mars and Earth as it flies around the giant star.

2020 PU1’s next near-Earth intersection will take place on Monday. If the asteroid ends up colliding with the planet, it most likely won’t cause an impact event. Instead, 2020 PU1 would probably produce a powerful explosion in the sky.

The approaching asteroid is bigger than the space rock that produced an airburst over a populated city in Russia in 2013. During that time, an asteroid with a diameter of about 66 feet hit Earth and detonated over an area known as Chelyabinsk Oblast.

Although the asteroid didn’t hit the ground, its mid-air explosion was powerful enough to damage several structures in the city. Reports indicated that the incident damaged over 7,000 buildings and injured about 1,500 people.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2020 PU1 is not in danger of hitting Earth or causing a powerful airburst during its upcoming approach. According to the agency, the asteroid will cross Earth’s orbit on Monday at 9:16 p.m. EDT. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.01597 astronomical units or 1.5 million miles from the planet’s center.

After Monday’s visit, 2020 PU1’s next near-Earth approach will take place on Jan. 16, 2021. The asteroid will be about 0.40321 astronomical units or 37 million miles from Earth during its future visit.

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