MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - You may be seeing a bunch of information circulating social media about a gigantic asteroid the size of a stadium or the Empire State Building heading for a close approach to Earth this weekend.
In a year in which anything seems possible, this may make some of you a bit uneasy if you don’t do a bit of research on Asteroid 2002 NN4.
We’re here to tell you to not worry about a giant space rock as you enjoy your Saturday plans. Trust us.
Asteroid 2002 NN4 has an approximate size of 1,100 feet, which is about the size of a stadium, according to NASA. And yes, it is projected to pass by Earth on Saturday, June 6th.
It will do so at whopping speed of well over 20,000 mph. That’s according to Space Reference.
But it will only get as close as about 3.16 million miles. That is more than 13 times farther away from Earth than the Moon! Let that sink in for a second.
Technically speaking, that is relatively close when you consider the spatial spectrum of space. The asteroid is 0.01 astronomical units (AU) from Earth at its closest point, which means it is relatively close to our planet’s orbit, according to Space Reference.
Saturday’s pass-by will be the closest the asteroid will get until June 6th, 2070. On that day it will come within 1 million miles of Earth, per Space Reference.
That is significantly closer.
Because of these occasional passages within 4.6 million miles of Earth and its size being larger than 150 meters, Asteroid 2002 NN4 is termed a “potentially hazardous object.” That does not mean it will slam into Earth, however.
Believe it or not, there are MANY asteroids and space rocks that pass “close by” Earth each year. You can view them yourself by using NASA’s Asteroid Watch Widget, which is freely available.
Between just June 4th and 6th, there are five asteroids forecast to pass “near” Earth. However, not all asteroids that come within the 4.6-million-mile threshold designated by NASA are as large as Asteroid 2002 NN4.
Many of them are very small in comparison. For example, the other four asteroids set to zip by Earth through Saturday measure up to 160 feet or smaller.
So no, don’t cancel your Saturday plans. Don’t worry about an Empire State Building-sized space rock slamming into Earth.