NASA estimates an asteroid larger than the Empire State Building is headed in Earth’s direction and expected to pass near our planet on Saturday.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) labeled the asteroid, officially named 163348 (2002 NN4), a “potentially hazardous asteroid” due to its predicted proximity to Earth, but it’s appears the object will keep a distance of over 3.1 million miles away when it passes.
“It’s an exciting time for planetary defense,” Ed Lu, executive director of the Asteroid Institute, tells CNN. “We are on the verge of an absolute flood of new observations that will allow us to track 10 times more asteroids than we’ve ever tracked before.”
According to SpaceReference.org, 2002 NN4 is a relatively small-sized space rock, measuring between 0.254 and 0.568 kilometers in diameter. New York’s Empire State Building is approximately 0.4432 kilometers in height.
2002 NN4 which is labeled as an Aten-class Asteroid, meaning it is among a class of asteroids with an orbit around the Sun that could bring it in close proximity with Earth, is still larger than 90 percent of asteroids.
That said, the asteroid is small in “absolute terms,” compared to other asteroids like (52768) 1998 OR2 which passed by Earth in April this year coming in at over 6,500 feet and passing Earth by nearly 4 million miles away, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
There are currently an estimated 1,679 Aten-class Asteroids in a database of 945,994, according to Spacereference.org.
NASA says that an object larger than about 150 meters (492 feet) that can approach the Earth to within 4.6 million miles is deemed a potentially hazardous object.