Scientists have warned that a 1,600-foot-tall asteroid will fly past Earth in the early hours of May 16. Asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) will be closest to Earth at 2:48 a.m. on the same day, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The asteroid is taller than most buildings on the planet, including New York’s iconic Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The giant asteroid will fly by from about 2.5 million miles away, prompting the space agency to label it a “close approach.” A space rock of this size can do a lot of damage if it ever hits the planet.
The asteroid routinely passes Earth while orbiting the Sun, most recently in 2020. The asteroid will next come close to the planet in 2024, though not nearly as close as possible. Asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) will next come this close to Earth in May 2163.
Asteroids are rocky, airless remnants left over from the early formation of our solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago, according to NASA. There are currently 1,113,527 known asteroids, most of which orbit the Sun between Jupiter and Mars. According to the space agency, the total mass of all the asteroids combined is less than that of Earth’s moon.
When one of the space rocks comes within 4.65 million miles of Earth orbit and is over 500 feet in diameter, space authorities label it as “potentially hazardous.” Many of them, including NASA, have created contingency plans to protect the planet from potential collisions.
Corresponding Space.com, smaller asteroids thought to strike the planet every 1,000 to 10,000 years can cause devastating tsunamis or destroy a city. Asteroids smaller than 25m will most likely burn up as they enter the planet’s atmosphere.
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