NASA’s asteroid tracking system has detected two of the biggest space rocks that will approach Earth next month. According to the agency’s database, the two approaching cosmic objects have been labeled as potentially hazardous asteroids due to the threat they pose on Earth.

The first large asteroid that will approach Earth in December has been identified by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 216258 (2006 WH1). As indicated in the agency’s database, this asteroid is currently moving towards Earth at an average speed of about 26,000 miles per hour.

CNEOS estimated that 216258 (2006 WH1) has a diameter of about 1,772 feet, which makes it significantly bigger than the Empire State building.

Trailing behind 216258 (2006 WH1) is a much larger asteroid known as 310442 (2000 CH59). According to CNEOS, this asteroid is moving across space with an average velocity of over 27,000 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of 2,034 feet.

216258 (2006 WH1) has been classified as an Apollo asteroid. This means that it follows a wide orbit that goes around the Sun and the Earth. Occasionally, the asteroid’s orbit intersects with that of Earth as the planet travels around the giant star.

310442 (2000 CH59), on the other hand, belongs to a group of asteroids known as Atens. Although the orbit of Aten asteroids isn’t as wide as Apollos, they also follow an Earth-crossing path. Usually, the orbit of Aten asteroids intersects with that of Earth twice as they approach and leave their farthest distance from the Sun.

Due to their massive sizes and natural orbits, 216258 (2006 WH1) and 310442 (2000 CH59) have been labeled as potentially hazardous asteroids.

“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].”

According to CNEOS, 216258 (2006 WH1) is expected to approach Earth on Dec. 20 at 10:17 am EST from a distance of 0.03904 astronomical units or around 3.6 million miles away.

310442 (2000 CH59), on the other hand, will visit Earth’s vicinity after Christmas on Dec. 26 at 2:54 a.m. EST. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.04874 astronomical units or roughly 4.5 million miles from the planet’s center.

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