Asteroid Possibly As Big as Empire State Building To Pass Earth This Week

An asteroid that could be nearly 1,250-feet across is due to safely zoom past Earth this week.

The space rock, called 2022 BH7, will pass our planet on Friday whilst traveling at a speed of more than 50,000 miles per hour.

It will reach its closest distance to Earth at around 4:45 p.m. ET that day, when it will be around 1.4 million miles away—roughly six times as far away as the moon is.

As such, Earth will be perfectly safe during 2022 BH7's pass. However, the asteroid is still classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) by NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Asteroids are given this classification based on their size and their potential to make threatening close passes by our planet, though an asteroid can still be a PHA even if it's not expected to hit Earth.

2022 BH7 meets this criteria, with its size estimated to be between 557 feet and 1,246 feet across, CNEOS data shows. This means that, at the upper limit, the asteroid could be nearly as wide as the Empire State Building is tall.

Again, Earth is expected to be perfectly safe when 2022 BH7 flies past. In fact, it's common for many asteroids to come much, much closer. CNEOS data shows that the asteroid 2022 CO6 is due to fly past Earth on Tuesday and will come within just over half the distance between Earth and the moon.

2022 CO6 is still not expected to hit us, and in any case it is much smaller than 2022 BH7 with an estimated maximum diameter of around 144 feet.

While asteroid impacts may sound like the domain of Hollywood films, scientists take the threat they pose seriously. According to CNEOS, rocky or iron asteroids larger than about 100 meters (328 feet) across would be expected to reach Earth's surface once every 10,000 years or so on average. These would be large enough to cause local disasters, including tidal waves.

Once every several hundred thousand years or so, asteroids larger than a kilometer (0.62 miles) across would be expected to collide with our planet, which would pose a threat to life on Earth.

A couple of notable asteroid impacts have occurred in recent history—both of them in Russia. One was the 1908 Tunguska event, thought to have been caused by a space rock with varying size estimates up to 300 feet in diameter.

It hit near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in central Siberia, producing an explosive force of as much as 15 megatons of TNT, which is 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, according to Britannica. A NASA estimate puts the explosive force lower, equivalent to 185 times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Then there was the Chelyabinsk asteroid which exploded around 14 miles above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013. The house-sized asteroid caused a shock wave that blew out windows over 200 square miles, injuring over 1,600 people.

A stock photo shows an asteroid in space against a backdrop of stars. Scientists are always scanning the skies for potentially threatening space rocks. iStackphotons/Getty