NASA Spots Several Plane-Sized Asteroids Hurtling Towards Earth

hero asteroid approaching earth
According to NASA, there are several airplane-sized asteroids hurtling toward Earth this week. The largest of the five is estimated to be 110 feet in size, while the closest will come within 447,000 miles of Earth.

It is not uncommon for large asteroids to go zipping by Earth at a safe distance. This week, however, there will be five making close approaches. Asteroid 2024 LU1, estimated to be 71 feet in diameter, made its closest approach yesterday, flying within 1,150,000 miles of Earth. The next close approach will occur tomorrow, June 19, and while it will be the farthest out of the five, it is the largest at 110 feet.

NASA defines an asteroid as typically comprising rocky, dusty, and metallic materials. The majority orbit within the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. However, some follow paths that circulate into the inner solar system (including near-Earth asteroids), while others remain outside the orbit of Neptune.

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are comets or asteroids that move near the orbit of Earth. These space rocks have a trajectory that could bring them within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun, and within 0.3 astronomical units of the orbit of Earth. To put that distance into perspective, 0.3 astronomical units equate to roughly 28 million miles.

In order to be classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), it must exceed 140 meters and within 7.48 million kilometers of Earth. If an asteroid of this size were to enter Earth’s atmosphere and not completely burn up, it would likely cause grave injuries and create massive damage to wherever it landed. This would only be amplified if it were to strike a major city somewhere in the world.

Asteroids are not to be confused with meteoroids, which are small Sun-orbiting rocks or particles less than 3-feet in size. Meteors are a light phenomenon which occurs because of a meteoroid entering Earth’s atmosphere, while meteorites are left over pieces of a meteoroid or asteroid that survives entering Earth’s atmosphere and lands on the surface.

One resource for keeping up with potentially hazardous asteroids is NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). PDCO is responsible for coordinating and creating plans to protect Earth from these types of threats.