An asteroid that could be larger than the Empire State Building in New York is approaching Earth at more than 18,000 miles per hour and will be closest to Earth this weekend.
The asteroid, designated 388945 (2008 TZ3), is the largest of five asteroids to approach Earth between Friday and Monday, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) estimates that the asteroid is between 220 and 490 meters long. For reference, the Empire State Building is about 443 meters (1,453 feet) tall.
Asteroid 2008 TZ3 also travels 8.22 kilometers of space every second, traveling at a speed of about 18,388 miles per hour.
Fortunately, the asteroid is expected to miss Earth by about 3.6 million miles when it flies by around 5:18 p.m. EST on Sunday.
“2008 TZ3 will fly by at about 15 times the moon’s distance; We know the orbit of this asteroid very well and can predict with confidence that it can’t get any closer than about 15 lunar distances on May 15, which means it won’t get any closer than about 3.6 million miles,” said CNEOS- Director Paul Chodas. said Newsweek.
According to JPL, NASA considers any object larger than 150 meters and moving within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometers or 19.5 times the distance of the moon) a “potentially dangerous object”.
Asteroid 2008 TZ3 could have devastating effects if it ever hits Earth. The Independent reported on the meteor that likely caused the 1908 Tunguska event — an explosion of about 12 megatons (12 million tons of TNT) that flattened forested areas around Russia’s Tunguska River — measured between 100 and 200 meters across , less than half the size of the 2008 TZ3 . The atomic bomb that the US dropped on Nagasaki was equivalent to an explosion of 16 kilotons (16,000 tons of TNT).
Researchers calculate that asteroids 100 meters in diameter impacting Earth can cause destruction of about 10 megatons.
Researchers believe the asteroid that likely wiped out the dinosaurs was between about 10 and 15 kilometers across, which is 30 times larger than 2008 TZ3.
Sunday isn’t the first time asteroid 2008 TZ3 has passed close to Earth. Asteroid 2008 TZ3 was first spotted in 2008 by Mt. Lemmon Survey near Tuscon, Arizona, and passes by Earth once every 732 days (almost exactly two years) while orbiting the sun, according to The Telegraph.
In May 2020, asteroid 2008 TZ3 passed within about 1.7 million miles of Earth. NASA estimates it won’t be that close to Earth again until May 2163.