A Potentially Hazardous Asteroid At Least 1,200-Ft Is Racing Towards Earth
A potentially hazardous asteroid the size of the Empire State Building is hurtling toward Earth and you can watch its near approach live. Asteroid 1994 XD is expected to pass by at a distance of just eight times the distance of Earth from the moon.
Asteroid 1994 XD derives its name from the year it was discovered by the Spacewatch group at Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona in December of 1994. It is estimated to be approximately 370 to 830 meters (1,214 to 2,723 feet) in diameter. In comparison, New York's Empire State Building is 443.2 meters (1,454 feet) tall. It is expected to come within 3.1 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) of Earth on June 12, 2023, according to The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, which also plans on live streaming the asteroid's close approach.
The mammoth asteroid is not alone. In 2005, astronomers learned that 1994 XD is actually a binary asteroid, or that it is a larger asteroid with a moonlet orbiting it. This is similar to the binary asteroid that NASA targeted with its DART mission, which had a spacecraft smash into asteroid Didymos' moonlet, Dimorphos. The space agency proclaimed the test a success, changing the orbit of the moonlet by 32 minutes.
The image above comes from the average of six, 120-second exposures that were taken using the Celestron C14+Paramount ME+SBIG ST8-XME robotic unit that is made available to the Virtual Telescope Project. Asteroid 1994 XD was around 25 million kilometers from Earth at the time the image was taken.
Asteroid 1994 XD orbits the sun about every 3.6 years and will not make another near flyby of Earth until 2041. It is labeled as "potentially hazardous" due to the fact that it is a near-Earth object with an orbit that makes a close approach to Earth and is large enough to cause significant regional damage if it were to make an impact.