An asteroid the size of which could be larger than the Empire State Building in New York is approaching Earth at more than 18,000 miles per hour and will come closest to Earth this weekend.
The asteroid, dubbed 388945 (2008 TZ3) is the largest of five asteroids to approach Earth between Friday and Monday, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) estimates the asteroid to be between 220 and 490 meters long. For reference, the Empire State Building is approximately 443 meters (1,453 feet) tall.
Asteroid 2008 TZ3 also covers 8.22 kilometers of space every second, traveling at a speed of around 18,388 miles per hour.
Fortunately, the asteroid is expected to miss Earth by about 3.6 million kilometers when it passes around 5:18 p.m. EST Sunday.
“2008 TZ3 will pass about 15 times the distance from the Moon; we know very precisely the orbit of this asteroid and we can predict with certainty that it will not be able to approach within about 15 lunar distances on May 15, which means that it will not approach within approximately 3.6 million miles,” said CNEOS Director Paul Chodas. says Newsweek.
According to JPL, NASA considers any object larger than 150 meters that passes within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometers or 19.5 times the distance to the moon) “a potentially dangerous object.”
Asteroid 2008 TZ3 could have a devastating effect if it were to hit Earth. The Independent reported the meteor that likely caused the Tunguska event of 1908 – an approximately 12 megaton (12 million tonne TNT) explosion that flattened the forested area around the Tunguska River in Russia – measured between 100 and 200 meters wide, less than half the size of 2008 TZ3. The atomic bomb the United States dropped on Nagasaki was equivalent to a 16 kiloton (16,000 ton TNT) explosion.
Researchers calculate that asteroids 100 meters in diameter impacting Earth can cause about 10 megatons of destruction.
Researchers believe the asteroid that likely wiped out the dinosaurs was between 10 and 15 kilometers wide, which is up to 30 times larger than 2008 TZ3.
Sunday is not the first time that asteroid 2008 TZ3 will pass close to Earth. Asteroid 2008 TZ3 was first spotted by Mt. Lemmon Survey near Tuscon, Arizona in 2008 and passes Earth once every 732 days (almost exactly two years) as it orbits the sun, according to The Telegraph.
In May 2020, asteroid 2008 TZ3 passed about 2.7 million kilometers from Earth. NASA estimates that it won’t return this close to Earth until around May 2163.