On April 6, a ‘potentially catastrophic’ skyscraper-sized asteroid will fly by Earth.
According to N.A.S.A, the possibly dangerous asteroid 2023 FM, which is bigger than a 40-story structure, will fly by Earth on Thursday, April 6, at a distance of 7.5 lunar miles.
According to N.A.S.A, a skyscraper-sized asteroid traveling through space at 35,000 mph (56,000 km/h) will fly past Earth on Thursday, April 6, passing our planet at a distance that is around 7.5 times the usual distance between Earth and the moon. Thankfully, the substantial space rock will go by Earth by more than one million kilometers.
Astronomers estimate that the asteroid, named 2023 FM, measures somewhere between 393 and 853 feet (120 to 260 meters) in diameter, or roughly the height of a 40- to 80-story skyscraper, according to a N.A.S.A description(opens in new tab). During its closest approach on Thursday afternoon, the asteroid will fly within roughly 1.8 million miles (2.9 million kilometers) of our planet, far beyond the orbit of the full moon.
The space rock’s formidable size, coupled with its uncomfortably close trajectory, earns it the title of a potentially hazardous asteroid(opens in new tab) (PHA), meaning a space rock that could measure larger than 460 feet (140 m) in diameter and that could come within 4.65 million miles (7.48 million km) of Earth, according to N.A.S.A’s near-Earth-object classification system.
N.A.S.A tracks thousands of PHAs, as even a slight, unexpected tweak to an asteroid’s orbit could send it on a deadly crash course with Earth. Astronomers are constantly monitoring and recalculating these orbits — and thankfully, no collisions with PHAs are likely for at least the next 100 years.
An asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool called 2023 DW was discovered in March. At first, it seemed to have a 1-in-600 probability of colliding with Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046, which is a far higher risk than usual. The likelihood of impact has recently been revised by European Space Agency researchers to 1 in 1,584, which means the asteroid is almost certain to miss and scientists are no longer concerned about it.
If a large asteroid ever appears on course for a direct impact with Earth, humans may be ready to deal with it. In September 2022, N.A.S.A’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission successfully crashed a spacecraft into a small asteroid called Dimorphos, significantly altering the space rock’s trajectory(opens in new tab). While Dimorphos never posed a threat to Earth, the mission proved that redirecting asteroids with rocket impacts is a viable means of planetary defense — so long as astronomers have several years (or preferably decades) to plan for the impact, N.A.S.A said.
This story originally appeared on Live Science.