KEY POINTSNASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth2020 EF has a natural orbit that intersects Earth’s pathThe approaching asteroid is big enough to cause a powerful airburstAn asteroid following an Earth-intersecting orbit is about to approach Earth in a couple of days. Based on the data collected by NASA, the asteroid is big enough to create…
- NASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth
- 2020 EF has a natural orbit that intersects Earth’s path
- The approaching asteroid is big enough to cause a powerful airburst
An asteroid following an Earth-intersecting orbit is about to approach Earth in a couple of days. Based on the data collected by NASA, the asteroid is big enough to create a violent explosion in the atmosphere if it ends up colliding with the planet.
The approaching asteroid if currently being monitored by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNOES). According to CNEOS, the asteroid, which has been identified as 2020 EF, is currently moving towards Earth at a speed of over 10,000 miles per hour.
CNEOS estimated that the asteroid has a diameter of about 98 feet, making it slightly longer than the distances between baseball diamond bases.
According to CNEOS, 2020 EF is an Aten asteroid, which means it follows a natural orbit that crosses Earth’s path. As indicated in NASA’s orbit diagram for 2020 EF, the asteroid follows a very wide orbit around the Sun and almost follows the same path as Earth. Aside from intersections, the diagram also shows multiple near-approaches between 2020 EF and the planet.
Due to its size, 2020 EF will most likely not cause an impact event on Earth during a collision. Instead, the asteroid will probably break apart upon entering the atmosphere and cause an explosion in the sky.
Unfortunately, this does not automatically mean that a collision with 2020 EF will not be dangerous for Earth. As shown during the 2013 meteor explosion over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, mid-air explosions caused by asteroids can be very dangerous.
Depending on their sizes, the blast from space rocks can release energy equivalent to multiple atomic bombs. Although much of the explosion will be absorbed by the atmosphere, the remaining energy would still be powerful enough to damage buildings and injure people on the ground.
Fortunately, CNEOS noted that 2020 EF is not in danger of hitting Earth during its upcoming near-intersection with the planet. The asteroid is expected to approach Earth on March 18 at 11:15 p.m. EDT. During this time, the asteroid will fly past Earth from a distance of 0.04241 astronomical units or roughly 3.9 million miles from the planet’s center.
Image: Artist illustration of an asteroid heading for the Earth Photo: Pixabay