NASA Warns: This weekend, an asteroid the size of the Empire State Building headed towards Earth

An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building in New York is approaching Earth at a speed of more than 18,000 miles per hour and will pass by Earth this weekend. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) is the biggest of five asteroids that will approach Earth between Friday and Monday (JPL). The asteroid is estimated to be between 220 and 490 meters long by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The Empire State Building is about 443 meters (1,453 ft) tall.

Asteroid 2008 TZ3 is similarly traveling at a speed of 18,388 miles per hour, traversing 8.22 kilometers of space per second. Fortunately, the asteroid will pass Earth at roughly 5:18 p.m. EST on Sunday, missing by around 3.6 million miles. “We know the orbit of this asteroid pretty well, and we can forecast with confidence that it won’t go closer than around 15 lunar lengths on May 15, which means it won’t get closer than about 3.6 million miles,” CNEOS director Paul Chodas told Newsweek.

NASA considers any item greater than 150 meters that travels within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometers, or 19.5 times the distance to the moon) to be a “potentially dangerous object,” according to JPL. If asteroid 2008 TZ3 collides with the Earth, it might be catastrophic. According to the Independent, the meteor that triggered the 1908 Tunguska event — a 12 megaton (12 million tonnes of TNT) impact that leveled wooded areas surrounding Russia’s Tunguska river — was between 100 and 200 meters wide, less than half the size of 2008 TZ3. The atomic bomb unleashed on Nagasaki was comparable to a 16-kiloton explosion (16,000 tonnes of TNT).

According to researchers, asteroids with a diameter of 100 meters colliding with the Earth may produce 10 megatons of damage. The asteroid that took out the dinosaurs was estimated to be between 10 and 15 kilometers broad, which is up to 30 times bigger than the 2008 TZ3.

Asteroid 2008 TZ3 will come near to Earth for the second time on Sunday. According to The Telegraph, asteroid 2008 TZ3 was discovered in Tuscon, Arizona in 2008 and circles the sun once every 732 days (nearly precisely two years). Asteroid 2008 TZ3 came close to 1.7 million miles of Earth in May 2020. It won’t return that near to Earth until roughly May 2163, according to NASA.

Source: AMN

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Written by Alex Bruno

Freelance space writer Alex Bruno specializes in covering China's quickly expanding space industry. In 2021, he started writing for SpaceXMania. He also contributes to publications including SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. When Alex was a small child, he first experienced the space bug after seeing Voyager photographs of alien planets in our solar system. When not in space, Alex likes to go trail jogging in the Finnish countryside.

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