NASA Says 3 Asteroids Are Passing Close to Earth Today, With One as Big as Egypt's Great Pyramid

Three asteroids will sail safely past Earth today, with one of them measuring up to around 400 feet wide—which is nearly as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The first of the space rocks to fly by the Earth on September 14—dubbed 2020 RF3—has actually already made its closest approach to our planet, according to NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

At 6:49 a.m. UTC (2:49 a.m. ET) the asteroid came within 0.00063 astronomical units (AU) or 58,500 miles of Earth.

This is only around a quarter of the distance between the moon and our planet, which is a very close shave in cosmic terms. The object is relatively small for an asteroid, measuring up to 40 feet in diameter, although it is travelling at a staggering 39,000 miles per hour.

Even though the asteroid is small and was moving incredibly fast, it was close enough that astronomer Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope Project was able to capture a picture of it, which you can see below.

Near-Earth asteroid 2020 RF3
Near-Earth asteroid 2020 RF3 on September 14, 2020 at 12:21 a.m. UTC. Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

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In the image, which was snapped a few hours before the close approach when the object was about 250,000 miles away, 2020 RF3 can be seen as a tiny, bright dot of light, marked by an arrow.

Because the telescope used had to track the fast motion of the asteroid, the stars in the background appear as long, white streaks of light.

The second asteroid, known as 2020 QL2 is significantly larger, measuring up to 393 feet in diameter. This space rock will make its closest approach at 3:50 p.m. UTC (11:50 a.m. ET) when it will come within 4.3 million miles of Earth.

The third asteroid, called 2020 RD4, is much more similar in size to 2020 RF3, measuring no more than around 22 feet in diameter. And just like 2020 RF3, this space rock will come within around a quarter of the Earth-moon distance at 8:33 p.m. UTC (4:33 p.m. ET) on Monday.

asteroids
Stock image: Artist's illustration of asteroids in the solar system. iStock

If you would like to watch this asteroid fly past the Earth, the Virtual Telescope Project will be providing a live feed of the object beginning at 7 p.m. UTC (3 p.m. ET.)

Astronomers can predict the orbit of these objects very well so there is no chance that any will strike our planet for the next couple of centuries or so at least. If they were on course to collide with Earth, both 2020 RF3 and 2020 RD4 are both so small they would most likely burn up in the atmosphere before they reached the ground.

The medium-sized asteroid 2020 QL2 would be large enough to cause considerable damage on a local or regional scale if it did strike our planet.

NASA Says 3 Asteroids Are Passing Close to Earth Today, With One as Big as Egypt's Great Pyramid | Tech & Science