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

A huge asteroid that could be nearly 1,500 feet wide is due to make a "close approach" to Earth this week, according to NASA data.

The space rock, called 2013 BO76, will be traveling at just over 30,000 miles per hour when it makes its pass by our planet. Thankfully, although the asteroid is classed as "potentially hazardous" it's expected to remain at a safe distance.

2013 BO76 is due to make its close approach on Thursday, March 24th, at 6:55 p.m. ET, according to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

It is important to remember that the term "close approach" is relative. Asteroids may sometimes make what astronomers deem to be a "close approach" to Earth at some points during their regular orbits around the sun, but in fact these close approaches can be several times further away from us than the moon is.

As such, at its closest point to Earth this week 2013 BO76 is expected to be around 3.1 million miles away—more than 13 times farther away than the moon.

Still, the space rock is large. According to the CNEOS asteroid database, 2013 BO76 is estimated to be between 656 and 1,476 feet wide—meaning it is even wider than the Empire State Building is tall.

2013 BO76's size is part of the reason it is classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). According to CNEOS, PHAs are defined based on an asteroid's size as well as its potential to make threatening close passes to Earth.

Generally, an asteroid that can't get any closer to Earth than about 4,650,000 miles or is smaller than about 500 feet in diameter is not considered to be a PHA.

In any case, after 2013 BO76 makes its close approach to Earth this week it's not expected to cause any trouble for the foreseeable future. Orbital predictions show the space rock will not come so close to Earth again until the year 2193—which is when the data runs out.

Earlier this month of March, 2013 BO76 was photographed by Gianluca Masi, an astronomer at the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy.

The asteroid can be seen as a tiny white speck in the middle of the image below, highlighted by a white arrow against a backdrop of blurred stars. At the time the image was taken on March 5th, 2013 BO76 was about 14.9 million miles away.

2013 BO76
A photo of the asteroid 2013 BO76 taken by Gianluca Masi at the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy on March 5th, 2022. Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

Over the next 60 days, the closest a major asteroid is expected to come to Earth will be about 654,000 miles, which is around 2.7 times farther away than the moon, CNEOS data shows. That asteroid, 2012 UX68, is expected to pass our planet on May 15 and will have a maximum estimated diameter of around 300 feet.

Asteroid
A stock photo shows an illustration of an asteroid in space. Asteroids may be classified as potentially hazardous if they are big and pass close enough to Earth—but this does not mean they will hit us. vencavolrab/Getty