Potentially Hazardous Asteroid as Big as a Pyramid Nearing Earth

An asteroid that could be larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza is set to make a close approach to the Earth later this month, having only been discovered in April.

The space rock, dubbed 2022 GU6, will come within around 750,000 miles of our planet on June 12 at around 8:01 a.m. ET, figures from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) shows.

This is a relatively close approach for a near-Earth object (NEO) although there is no chance that 2022 GU6 will collide with our planet this time. The asteroid will be flying past at approximately three times the average distance between the Earth and the moon.

Pyramid
Stock images: An artist's illustration of an asteroid and the Great Pyramid of Giza. A space rock that could be larger than then Great Pyramid is set to zoom past the Earth later this month. iStock

As it zooms past us, the asteroid will be traveling at a staggering speed of almost 18,800 miles per hour—which is about nine times as fast as a rifle bullet and over 20 times the speed of sound.

Figures from the CNEOS show that the asteroid is estimated to measure between 216 feet and 492 feet across, based on its observed magnitude in the sky.

At the upper end of this size range, the space rock would be larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which stands at around 450 feet tall. It would also be slightly smaller than the Washington Monument, which has a height of around 554 feet.

The space rock is one of more than 29,000 NEOs that scientists have identified to date. Near-Earth object is a term used to refer to any astronomical body, of which the orbits come close to that of the Earth, astronomically speaking.

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

Some NEOs are classified as "potentially hazardous," meaning they have orbits that come within 4.6 million miles of Earth's own path around the sun, while also measuring 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 potentially hazardous NEOs has any chance of colliding with the Earth over the next century or so, according to CNEOS manager Paul Chodas.

"The 'Potentially Hazardous' designation simply means over many centuries and millennia, the asteroid's orbit may evolve into one that has a chance of impacting Earth. We do not assess these long-term many-century possibilities of impact," CNEOS manager Paul Chodas told Newsweek.

Toward the end of May, one of the largest asteroids to make a close approach to the Earth this year flew safely past our planet coming within a distance of around 2.5 million miles.