Asteroid the Size of the Statue of Liberty Due to Zoom Past Earth This Week

An asteroid as big as the Statue of Liberty is due to swing past our planet this week, according to NASA data.

The space rock, called 2015 KJ19, is expected to pass our planet at around 6:00 a.m. EDT on May 14. At the time, it will be at its closest distance to Earth as it orbits around the sun.

Scientists call this a "close approach." At its closest distance to us, 2015 KJ19 is expected to be around 15 times as far away as the moon, so the event will be safe.

Still, the asteroid is set to be relatively large and very fast. It will zoom past our planet at a speed of around 14 miles per second, or one-fourth as fast as a bolt of lightning.

Scientists at NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) think that 2015 KJ19 is between 288 feet and 656 feet across.

At the lower end of this estimate the space rock is estimated to be about as wide as the Statue of Liberty is tall, but at the upper estimate the asteroid would be nearly as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall.

Below, an orbital diagram shows the asteroid's predicted path as it makes its close pass by our planet. The perspective may be hard to see, but the white line shows the orbit of 2015 KJ19 traveling above the Earth as their orbits intersect. The dimmer, vertical lines help convey the vertical distance.

2015 KJ19
A CNEOS orbital diagram showing the position 2015 KJ19 will be in when it makes its close pass by the Earth. NASA/CNEOS/Screenshot

CNEOS does not consider 2015 KJ19 to be a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), as it does some near-Earth objects.

PHAs are classified based on a number of factors such as minimum orbital distance and size that CNEOS uses to measure its potential to make threatening near passes to our planet.

Based on the current parameters, asteroids that cannot get any closer to us than 0.05 astronomical units—roughly 4,650,000 miles—or that are smaller than around 500 feet in diameter are not generally considered to be PHAs.

Last month, a NASA scientist told Newsweek that planetary defense experts would consider launching a nuclear bomb at an asteroid if it looked as though it was going to hit us.

Lindley Johnson, NASA's planetary defense officer, said: "I call that the Hollywood solution. It is not totally out of whack."

However, Johnson added that it is a situation that scientists want to avoid getting into. Early detection is the goal, and researchers use telescopes to track and predict the orbit of thousands of asteroids around the Earth.

asteroid, earth, getty, stock
A stock image shows an asteroid. An asteroid the size of the Statue of Liberty is due to pass Earth this week. Getty Images