Asteroid That Could Be Larger Than Statue of Liberty Set to Zoom Past Earth

An asteroid that could be larger than the Statue of Liberty is set to zoom past the Earth this weekend.

The space rock, dubbed 2019 NW5, will make a close approach to our planet on Sunday, figures from NASA's Center for Near Earth Studies (CNEOS) show.

According to the CNEOS data, the asteroid will be nearest to Earth at 9:59 p.m. UTC, or 5:59 p.m. ET, on July 18.

At this point, 2019 NW5 will come as close as around 3.5 million miles to our planet, which is almost equivalent to around 15 times the average distance between the Earth and the moon.

While 3.5 million miles may seem like a large distance, on the scale of the solar system, it's considered a relatively close approach. Nevertheless, there is zero risk that the asteroid will collide with our planet during this event.

A near-Earth asteroid
A file illustration of an asteroid passing the Earth. One that could be larger than the Statue of Liberty is set to zoom past the Earth this weekend. iStock

At the time of the close approach, 2019 NW5 will be traveling at a staggering speed of nearly 36,000 miles per hour relative to the Earth. That's more than 17 times faster than a rifle bullet and around one-fifth as fast as a bolt of lightning.

In fact, the asteroid will have among the fastest velocities at close approach of all the near-Earth objects that are scheduled to fly past the Earth over the next year or so, according to the CNEOS data.

Based on its observable magnitude in the sky, 2019 NW5 is estimated to measure anywhere between 151 feet and 328 feet across.

At the upper end of this size range, the asteroid would stand slightly taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York.

At the lower end, the asteroid would be about the same size as the iconic Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.

The asteroid is one of more than 29,000 near-Earth objects, or NEOs, that scientists have identified to date. Near-Earth object is a term used to refer to any cosmic body whose orbit comes close to that of our planet, astronomically speaking.

The vast majority of these NEOs are asteroids—most of which are small—although there are more than a hundred comets included in this category.

Some NEOs are classified as "potentially hazardous," a designation given to those with orbits that come within 4.6 million miles of Earth's own path around the sun while also being estimated to measure more than 140 meters (around 460 feet) in diameter.

Potentially hazardous objects are large enough to produce significant damage on at least a regional scale in the event of an impact with the Earth. However, none of the known potentially hazardous NEOs have any chance of colliding with the Earth over the next century or so, according to CNEOS manager Paul Chodas.