NASA has detected a massive asteroid with an Earth-crossing orbit currently headed for the planet. According to the agency’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the asteroid is almost as big as the Golden Gate Bridge tower.

The approaching asteroid has been identified by CNEOS as 2019 UR2. As indicated in the agency’s database, this asteroid is currently traveling towards Earth at an average speed of over 30,000 miles per hour. CNEOS estimated that the asteroid is about 721 feet wide.

According to CNEOS, 2019 UR2 is officially classified as an Apollo asteroid. This means that like other Apollos, 2019 UR2 has a very wide orbit that takes it around the Earth and the Sun. From time to time, the asteroid’s orbit intersects with that of Earth as the planet completes its cycle around the massive star.

Due to the asteroid’s Earth-crossing orbit, 2019 UR2 has been labeled as a near-Earth object. This means that the asteroid is known to approach Earth at close distances. It is currently one of the thousands of asteroids that CNEOS is currently monitoring due to the threat it poses on Earth.

Given the asteroid’s massive size and current speed, it can certainly cause a major impact event if it ends up colliding with the planet. An impact caused by 2019 UR2 would create a crater that’s at least two miles wide. The energy that will be released from the asteroid’s explosion would be powerful enough to incinerate and wipe out an entire city.

If the asteroid ends up hitting the ocean, the explosion would generate towering tsunamis that are capable of traveling several miles away from the point of impact. These waves would be powerful and big enough to level nearby coastal areas and certain inland regions.

Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2019 UR2 is not in danger of hitting the planet on its upcoming approach. According to the agency, the asteroid will fly past Earth on Nov. 18 at 1:58 a.m. EST. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.04609 astronomical units or around 4.3 million miles from the planet’s center.

asteroids_passing_earth Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA