KEY POINTS

  • An asteroid as big as the Statue of Liberty is approaching Earth
  • The approaching asteroid follows an Earth-intersecting orbit
  • The asteroid is big enough to cause an impact event on Earth

NASA warned that an asteroid almost as big as the Statue of Liberty will approach Earth tomorrow morning. If the massive space rock ends up hitting the planet, there’s a chance that it might cause an impact event.

According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroid is known as 2020 BJ1. As indicated in the agency’s database, this asteroid is currently flying towards Earth at an average speed of almost 25,000 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of 282 feet, making it significantly wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 airplane.

2020 BJ1 is officially classified as an Apollo asteroid. Based on CNEOS’ projection of the asteroid’s trajectory, 2020 BJ1’s orbit crosses the paths of a couple of planets in the Solar System such as Mars and Earth. The asteroid’s near-Earth intersection usually occurs as it approaches its closest point from the Sun.

If the asteroid collides with Earth during its close-Earth approaches, it could cause a minor impact event on the planet. Given its size and current speed, there’s a strong chance that the asteroid could penetrate Earth’s atmosphere.

Instead of burning up and exploding in the sky, the asteroid could end up hitting the ground. If this happens, the asteroid could create a crater that’s almost a mile wide. Fortunately, the energy that would be released from the asteroid’s impact will not be enough to wipe out a large area. But, it could still cause significant damage to its immediate surroundings especially if it crashes in a heavily populated region.

According to CNEOS, 2020 BJ1 is expected to cross Earth’s path on Jan. 29 at 1:29 am EST. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.03960 astronomical units from the planet’s center, which is equivalent to about 3.7 million miles away.

Based on NASA’s observations, the agency learned that this asteroid is not expected to return to Earth’s neighborhood until 2108. As noted by the agency, the asteroid will be approaching Earth from a much farther distance during its future visit. It estimated that it will fly past Earth from a distance of 0.14192 astronomical units or about 13 million miles away.

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