A massive asteroid thought to be so large that it could potentially dwarf the Empire State Building and even the One World Trade Center in Manhattan will shoot past Earth this weekend at the breakneck speed of more than 14,300 mph. Known as asteroid 467317 (2000 QW7) – 2000 QW7, for short – the giant space rock is estimated to measure as much as 2,132 feet in diameter and will reach our planet’s vicinity on Saturday evening, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have announced.
While a close brush with an asteroid of such incredible proportions can certainly be unnerving, there is no reason to panic. NASA assures that the enormous asteroid won’t pose any threat to Earth and its inhabitants, harmlessly cruising past us at a safe distance of a few million miles.
As its name suggests, asteroid 2000 QW7 was discovered in the year 2000. The massive space rock was first spotted about a month before it performed a close flyby of Earth on September 1, 2000, one that brought it just under 3 million miles of the planet’s surface.
Classified as a near-Earth object (NEO) – specifically, an Amor-type asteroid – the formidable space rock is a frequent traveler through our corner of space. The giant rock swings by for a visit once every two decades or so, and is due for its next close approach on September 14.
Perhaps one of the most notable things about asteroid 2000 QW7 – other than its monumental size, that is – is that the behemoth was flagged by NASA as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” (PHA). Its impending flyby of Earth will come just one day after another huge NEO – an 853-foot, Apollo-type asteroid also flagged as potentially dangerous – will dart past our planet at a phenomenal speed of over 32,100 mph, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.
As NASA explains, NEOs are celestial objects such as comets or asteroids that orbit somewhere between approximately 91 million and 121 million miles from the sun. This means that in their journey around the sun, NEOs can venture as far as about 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit and as close to the planet’s surface as a few times the distance to the moon – or even closer.
While some NEOs wander close to Earth during a single flyby, after which they exit the inner solar system never to return again, others periodically swing back for repeated visits, traipsing through our celestial neighborhood with regularity. Such is the case of asteroid 2000 QW7.
Based on its orbital path around the sun, the giant rock was classified by the JPL as an Amor-type asteroid. Unlike Apollo and Aten asteroids, which are known to occasionally cross Earth’s orbit as they circle the sun, Amor asteroids follow an orbital path that allows them to approach Earth without actually crossing the planet’s orbit.
At the same time, the massive space rock bears the label of “potentially hazardous asteroid.” This more ominous designation has to do with its towering size and proximity to our planet. In order to qualify as a PHA, an asteroid has to measure at least 460 feet in diameter and follow an orbital path that brings it within 4.66 million miles of Earth’s orbit. Based on JPL data, the massive asteroid will approach Earth a lot closer than that on Saturday.
As far as NEOs go, asteroid 2000 QW7 is among the largest to buzz Earth in recent months. Data from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) indicates that the asteroid is at least 951 feet wide and can be as large as 2,132 feet across. At the upper end of that size estimate, the rock is nearly 1.5 times bigger than the Empire State Building and almost 1.3 times larger than the famous 1,650-foot asteroid Bennu, which is currently being orbited by NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission, the OSIRIS-Rex.
The last time that Earth was visited by a larger space rock was in late May when a gigantic nearly mile-wide Aten asteroid hurtled past our planet at a staggering 48,000 mph, as covered by The Inquisitr at the time.
Asteroid 2000 QW will swoop by for its close approach to Earth at 7:54 p.m. on Saturday. At its closest point to Earth, the formidable space rock will come within 3.31 million miles of the planet’s surface – or nearly 14 times the distance to the moon.
The massive asteroid will return for another visit in late 2028, and then again in mid-2049. However, the rock will never again approach Earth as close as it will on Saturday. All of its subsequent flybys of Earth will carry it increasingly further away from the planet’s surface, making this weekend’s flyby the closest one for the next 166 years.