KEY POINTS

  • Two asteroids are set to make a close approach of the Earth on Tuesday
  • Both asteroids are expected to safely pass the planet, posing no harm
  • They are Earth-crossing asteroids with semi-major axes larger than that of the Earth

Two asteroids are expected to make a close approach to Earth this Tuesday but it's not something that people should be worried about.

Near Earth Object (NEO) 2011 ES4 is expected to make a close approach to Earth on Tuesday. At 22-49 meters (866-1,929 inches) across, 2011 ES4's size is comparable to that of a large house and it is expected to come within 45,000 miles of the Earth.

This means that when it passes, 2011 ES4 will be closer to the Earth than the moon, which is over 238,900 miles away. Although this is considered to be quite close by cosmic standards, it will still be farther than the orbiting satellites.

 "2011 ES4's close approach is "close" on an astronomical scale but poses no danger of actually hitting Earth," NASA Asteroid Watch said in a tweet.

It could prove to be a treat for some sky watchers. With a current visual magnitude of 26.04, it could be visible through long exposure photography.

Another asteroid, 2020 QG5, is also set to approach the Earth on Tuesday and it too is not expected to pose any threat to the planet. Smaller than 2011 ES4, it is making its close approach to Earth 16 years after the last time that it was observed on Aug. 11, 2004.

Both 2011 ES4 and 2020 QG5 are of the "Apollo" orbit classification, which means they are Earth-crossing asteroids with semi-major axes larger than that of the Earth. 

NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies keeps an eye on NEOs, predicting their future motions and assessing their potential impact hazards. Recently, CNEOS observed the closest-ever asteroid to pass by the planet. At just 10 to 20 feet, asteroid 2020 QG passed just 1,830 miles above the Earth over the southern Indian Ocean on Aug. 16.

Another asteroid, 2018 VP1, is set to make a close approach in November, just a day before the U.S. presidential elections.

Both 2020 QG and 2018 VP1 do not pose a major threat to Earth. And even if they do end up entering the atmosphere, they will only likely burn up and become bright fireballs. 

Two Very Different Asteroids Image of two different asteroids captured by NASA. Photo: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL