While multiple publications have focused on the massive size of asteroid 2016 NF23 as it prepares to make a “close approach” with Earth next week, the good news is that it won’t be flying close enough to pose a serious threat to our planet.
According to a report from Newsweek, the asteroid is expected to be zooming past Earth at about 20,000 miles per hour on August 29, with its size estimated to be somewhere around 230 to 525 feet, or 70 to 160 meters in diameter. Publications such as the Express have focused heavily on the object’s size, suggesting that it could be larger than the 456-foot-tall Great Pyramid of Giza or London’s 364-foot-tall St. Paul’s Cathedral. And, as Newsweek further noted, widespread damage “on the scale of entire countries” can be expected if an asteroid that large ends up striking our planet.
Despite the heavy focus placed on asteroid 2016 NF23’s size, as well as its classification under the Swinburne Astronomy Online Encyclopedia as a “potentially hazardous” near-Earth object, the good news is that Earth will be safe from an asteroid strike next Wednesday once 2016 NF23 makes its so-called close approach. It is expected to fly about 3.1 million miles away from Earth, which is well within the 4.6-million-mile threshold for “potentially hazardous” NEOs, but that distance is roughly 13 times greater than the distance separating Earth from the moon, according to the Daily Mail.
In an interview with Space Daily published early last month, European Space Agency NEO team leader Dr. Detlef Koschny allayed the concerns many might have regarding asteroids and how close they could get to our planet when they make their flybys. According to Koschny, asteroids measuring 100 meters in diameter could cause “significant damage” to a country or even its surrounding regions but are only expected to strike an average of every 10,000 years.
“Going from 100 meters down to 50 meters, the statistical frequency of strikes increases to once every 1,000 years. A century ago in 1908, a 40-meter object struck the Earth over Tunguska, Siberia, destroying an area of forest the size of the Munich metro area.”
Koschny added that asteroid strikes where the object measures around 20 meters in diameter or less are far more common, and occur every 10 to 100 years. He mentioned the example of the Chelyabinsk asteroid strike of 2013, which injured about 1,500 people, as the effect of one of these strikes that humanity will most likely see at some point in our lifetimes.
Although asteroid 2016 NF23 will likely be millions of miles away from Earth at its closest approach, the Inquisitr wrote earlier this month that another, much smaller asteroid, 2018 PD20, came only 20,636 miles (33,210 kilometers) from hitting our planet, marking this year’s closest asteroid encounter thus far.