KEY POINTS

  • An asteroid bigger than the Empire State Building is approaching Earth
  • The asteroid is big enough to destroy an entire city during an impact event
  • 2020 BX12 will be the third asteroid to visit Earth tomorrow

NASA warned that a massive potentially hazardous asteroid bigger than the Empire State Building is currently headed for Earth. If this space rock hits the planet, the blast would be powerful enough to wipe out an entire major city.

According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroid is known as 2020 BX12. This asteroid is currently moving towards Earth at an impressive speed of over 56,000 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of 1,444 feet.

2020 BX12 is a member of the Apollo family of asteroids and follows an elongated orbit within the Solar System. Like other Apollo asteroids, 2020 BX12 is known to intersect Earth’s path as it travels around the Sun. Aside from Earth, this asteroid also crosses the orbits of other planets such as Mars, Venus and Mercury.

Due to 2020 BX12’s massive size and Earth-crossing orbit, it has been categorized as a potentially hazardous asteroid.

“Potentially hazardous asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” NASA explained in a statement. “Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 [astronomical units] or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less are considered [potentially hazardous asteroids].”

If 2020 BX12 collides with Earth, the energy that would be released from its impact would be powerful enough to destroy a large area such as a city. If it hits the ocean instead, it would generate massive tsunamis that could wipe out coastal regions and other nearby areas.

According to CNEOS, 2020 BX12 is expected to debut in Earth’s neighborhood on Feb. 3 at 1:55 p.m. EST. It will approach the planet from a distance of 0.02915 astronomical units or roughly 2.7 million miles away.

Before 2020 BX12’s flyby, Earth will be approached by two asteroids tomorrow. The first will be 2020 BT14, a 59-foot asteroid that will fly past Earth from a distance of 0.00126 astronomical units or around 117,000 miles away.

This will be followed by the arrival of 2020 CK, a small asteroid with an estimated diameter of 39 feet. CNEOS noted that this space rock will approach the planet from 0.00365 astronomical units or 339,000 miles away.