KEY POINTS

  • An Earth-crossing asteroid is approaching the planet
  • It could cause an impact event on Earth
  • The asteroid’s next flyby will happen in 2108

NASA is currently tracking an asteroid that’s expected to approach Earth tomorrow. Based on its size and speed, the asteroid could cause an impact event if it ends up colliding with the planet.

According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroid is known as 2020 DG1. This asteroid has an estimated diameter of 243 feet, making it almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

CNEOS noted that this asteroid is currently traveling across the Solar System at a speed of almost 54,000 miles per hour.

2020 DG1 is officially classified as an Apollo asteroid. According to NASA, the asteroid follows an elongated orbit within the Solar System. As it makes its way across space, it intersects the orbits of other planets, including Mars, Venus and Earth.

Compared to the other types of asteroids, Apollos are probably the most dangerous due to their Earth-crossing orbits. If these asteroids get nudged or their trajectories slightly change, they could end up on a direct collision course with the planet.

In the case of 2020 DG1, asteroids that are as big as this space rock usually burn up in the atmosphere in the event of a collision. Instead of hitting the ground, they explode in the sky. However, since 2020 DG1 is traveling at such a high speed, it could successfully penetrate the atmosphere and cause an impact event on Earth.

Given its size, 2020 DG1 would cause a powerful explosion on the ground and create a crater that’s less than a mile wide. Although the energy from the blast won’t be enough to wipe out a large region such as a major city, 2020 DG1’s impact could still cause a high level of destruction to its surrounding areas.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2020 DG1 is not in danger of colliding with Earth during its upcoming visit. According to the agency, this asteroid will fly past Earth on Feb. 21 at 10:02 a.m. EST from a distance of 0.03512 astronomical units, which is equivalent to 3.3 million miles.

After tomorrow’s approach, the asteroid’s next near-Earth intersection is expected to occur on Aug. 15, 2108.

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