KEY POINTS

  • NASA is monitoring three asteroids that will approach Earth tomorrow
  • All three asteroids follow Earth-crossing orbits
  • The three approaching asteroids can cause powerful mid-air explosions

NASA’s asteroid tracking system is currently monitoring three near-Earth objects that are expected to approach the planet tomorrow. According to the agency’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the approaching asteroids have natural orbits that intersect the planet’s path.

The first asteroid that will fly past Earth tomorrow has been identified by CNEOS as 2020 AX2. As indicated in the agency’s database, this asteroid is currently flying across space and towards Earth at an average speed of over 15,000 miles per hour. It has an estimated diameter of about 161 feet.

Closely following 2020 AX2 is an asteroid known as 2020 AS1. According to CNEOS, this asteroid measures about 92 feet wide. The agency estimated that the asteroid is currently traveling at speeds of almost 13,000 miles per hour.

The third asteroid that will approach Earth tomorrow is called 2020 AE1. This asteroid is currently flying towards the planet at a speed of over 9,000 miles per hour. As noted by CNEOS, 2020 AE1 has an estimated diameter of about 66 feet.

All three asteroids are officially classified as Apollos. Like other asteroids that belong to this family of space rocks, 2020 AX2, 2020 AS1 and 2020 AE1 follow very wide orbits within the Solar System. As they travel around Earth’s neighborhood, their orbits occasionally intersect that of the planet as it completes its cycle around the Sun.

Given the approaching asteroids’ size and speed, they most likely will not cause impact events if they hit Earth. Instead, these asteroids will burn up in the atmosphere and cause powerful explosions in the sky. The energy that would be released by the asteroids’ explosions would be equivalent to multiple atomic bombs.

According to CNEOS, all three asteroids are expected to approach Earth on Jan. 13. 2020 AX2 will make its debut at 4:58 a.m. EST tomorrow. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.02551 astronomical units or roughly 2.4 million miles away.

2020 AS1, on the other hand, will approach the planet at 5:14 a.m. EST from a distance of 0.04045 astronomical units or roughly 3.8 million miles from the planet’s center.

As for 2020 AE1, this asteroid will fly past Earth at 8:50 a.m. EST. During its approach, the asteroid will be about 0.01683 astronomical units or about 1.6 million miles from Earth.

asteroids This artist's animation illustrates a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star the same age and size as our Sun. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech