• NASA spots two massive asteroids approaching Earth
  • Both asteroids follow Earth-crossing orbits
  • The asteroids are big enough to destroy an entire city

NASA has spotted two massive asteroids that are currently headed for Earth. Based on their size and speed, any of these asteroids could destroy an entire city if one of them ends up hitting the planet.

The first giant asteroid that will approach Earth this week has been identified by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 2019 XF. According to the agency, this asteroid has an estimated diameter of 427 feet, making it almost as big as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

CNEOS noted that this asteroid is currently moving towards Earth at an impressive speed of over 53,000 miles per hour.

The second asteroid that’s currently headed for Earth is known as 216258 (2006 WH1). As indicated in CNEOS’ database, this asteroid is traveling at speeds of up to 26,000 miles per hour. Although it’s not moving as fast as 2019 XF, 216258 (2006 WH1) is more massive with an estimated diameter of 1,772 feet.

Both incoming asteroids are officially classified as Apollos. This means that like other Apollo asteroids, 2019 XF and 216258 (2006 WH1) follow wide orbits within the Solar System. Occasionally, their path crosses Earth’s orbit as it travels around the Sun.

Due to its natural orbit and size, one of the asteroids, namely 216258 (2006 WH1), has been labeled by CNEOS as potentially hazardous.

“Potentially Hazardous Asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” CNEOS 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 either 2019 XF or 216258 (2006 WH1) hits Earth, the results would be devastating. Both asteroids are big enough to leave huge craters on the ground upon impact. The energy that would be released by their explosions would be powerful enough to incinerate and destroy everything within an area as big as a major city.

Fortunately, these two asteroids are not in danger of causing impact events during their upcoming visit. According to CNEOS, 2019 XF will fly past Earth on Dec. 17 at 11:13 p.m. EST from a distance of 0.02389 astronomical units or roughly 2.2 million miles away.

216258 (2006 WH1), on the other hand, will zip past Earth on Dec. 20 at 10:17 a.m. EST. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.03904 astronomical units or around 3.6 million miles from the planet’s center.

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