• NASA detected a massive asteroid heading towards Earth
  • The approaching asteroid follows an Earth-crossing orbit
  • The massive asteroid will arrive on Friday the 13th 

NASA has spotted a massive asteroid’s expected to approach Earth on Friday. According to the agency’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid has an Earth-crossing orbit.

The approaching asteroid has been identified by the agency as 2019 XO1. As indicated in the data collected by CNEOS, this asteroid is flying towards Earth at a speed of almost 18,000 miles per hour. The agency estimated that the asteroid is about 243 feet wide, which makes it about as wide as the wingspan of a Boeing 747 plane.

According to CNEOS, 2019 XO1 is officially classified as an Aten asteroid. This means that it follows a very wide orbit that goes around various bodies in the Solar System such as the Sun, Venus, Mercury and Earth. From time to time, the asteroid’s orbit intersects with that of Earth. Usually, this happens as the asteroid is near its farthest point from the Sun.

2019 XO1 was first observed on Dec. 3. According to the data collected by CNEOS on the asteroid’s trajectory, the space rock frequently approaches Earth, Mercury and Venus. But, unlike Earth, the asteroid does not cross the paths of these two planets.

The last time 2019 XO1 approached Earth was on Nov. 17, 2013. During that time, the asteroid flew past Earth from a distance of 0.09488 astronomical units or about 8.8 million miles away.

After its visit this week, the asteroid is not expected to return to Earth’s neighborhood until Dec. 22, 2022, where it will approach Earth from a distance of 0.09534 astronomical units or roughly 8.9 million miles away.

2019 XO1’s upcoming approach will happen on Dec. 13 at 8:25 a.m. EST. According to the asteroid’s orbit diagram, the near-Earth approach will occur after the space rock intersected the planet’s orbit. This means that instead of approaching Earth from a diagonal or perpendicular direction, the asteroid will be almost parallel to Earth as it makes its flyby.

According to CNEOS, 2019 XO1 is expected to approach the planet from a safe distance of 0.03033 astronomical units or around 1.9 million miles away.

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