Figures from NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) database show that the space rock, dubbed 2022 OE2, will approach our planet closely on Wednesday.
At 8:23 PM ET that day, the asteroid is expected to come about 3.2 million miles from Earth in its orbit around the Sun.
This is about 13 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon, and as such, there is no threat of collision with our planet.
Asteroids are rocky bodies that orbit the Sun, like planets, although they are much smaller.
Estimating the size of asteroids is difficult because astronomers often have to work out the size of an object based on how bright it is in the sky.
“The larger it is, the more light it will reflect and therefore it will appear brighter,” Greg Brown, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK, said previously. NEWSWEEK. “However, this requires an assumption about the reflectivity of the material it is made of, which can vary greatly. Add a number of other complications and the actual size of the object can be very different from the calculated value.”
As a result of these uncertainties, astronomers typically provide a range for size estimates, which in the case of 2022 OE2 is 170–380 meters (558–1247 ft).
At the upper end of this size range, the asteroid would stand the length of the Empire State Building in New York City, which is about 1,250 feet tall.
According to CNEOS figures, the 2022 OE2 will travel at an astonishing speed of nearly 72,000 miles per hour. That’s about 40 times faster than a rifle bullet, and about a third faster than a lightning bolt.
The space rock is one of more than 29,000 near-Earth objects, or NEOs, that scientists have discovered so far, the vast majority of which are asteroids. The term is used to refer to any astronomical object that passes within 30 million miles of our planet’s orbit.
Asteroid 2022 OE2 was only discovered on July 26, 2022, a few days before its close approach. While astronomers have identified thousands of NEOs, these objects can be very difficult to detect, in part because they are relatively small and dark compared to other objects in the sky.
Some NEOs are classified as “potentially hazardous,” meaning that they have orbits within 4.6 million miles of the Earth’s path around the sun, while also having a diameter of more than 140 meters (about 460 feet).
The scale of the potentially hazardous objects means they can cause significant damage, at least on a regional scale, if one hits the ground. However, none of the potentially dangerous NEOs that we know of have any chance of colliding with Earth within the next century or so, according to CNEOS Director Paul Chodas.