Asteroid Bigger Than Empire State Building Will Fly Past Earth This Month On Closest Approach Since 2001

A stock photo of an asteroid approaching Earth.
urikyo33 / Pixabay

An asteroid estimated to be larger than the Empire State Building is expected to fly by Earth on August 10. However, NASA assures everyone that there’s nothing to worry about since this object is millions of miles away from our planet and by no means the largest asteroid in our solar system.

As reported earlier this week by the New York Post, the asteroid known as 2006 QQ23 is estimated to measure about 1,870 feet in diameter or three dozen stories higher than the Empire State Building, which measures 1,454 feet high. The asteroid is considered a near-Earth object as its orbit will be well within NASA’s threshold of 30 million miles away from Earth for such objects. In addition, 2006 QQ23 will likely fly within 4.55 million miles of our planet at a speed of 10,400 miles per hour upon its approach next week.

According to data from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, next week’s flyby will mark the 2006 QQ23’s closest approach since 2001, when the asteroid flew within 3.13 million miles of Earth. Its next near-Earth approach is expected to take place on February 15, 2022, but as the New York Post explained, it won’t “come nearly as close.”

Although several outlets have focused on how Asteroid 2006 QQ23 is supposedly bigger than the Empire State Building, a report from CNN pointed out that the object is actually “moderately sized” and “more or less benign,” per Lindley Johnson of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

Johnson added that about a half-dozen asteroids similar in size to 2006 QQ23 fly by Earth each year, though this particular object is considerably smaller than the largest known asteroid to orbit our sun, which is estimated to measure 21 miles in length.

All in all, NASA has reportedly documented close to 900 asteroids with diameters of at least one kilometer, or 3,281 feet.

While Johnson stressed to CNN that Asteroid 2006 QQ23 will not pose any risk to Earth during its flyby, the outlet noted that an asteroid that large could “devastate a statewide area” if it crashes into our planet. Six years ago, a much smaller object – a meteor with a 55-foot diameter – ended up injuring more than 1,000 people even though it didn’t actually make an impact when penetrating Earth’s atmosphere over Russia.

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Talking about the chances of an asteroid making impact with Earth, Johnson said that such events happen only once every two to three centuries. He said that NASA has the capability of tracking larger asteroids as well as determining when they will be making a close approach.

However, his NASA colleague, Kelly Fast, cautioned that there could be some undocumented asteroids that could cause “significant” chance while making contact with our planet.

“It’s the ones we don’t know about that we’re concerned about,” Fast told CNN.