Big Asteroid the Size of Washington Monument To Zoom Past Earth Today

A large asteroid roughly the size of the Washington Monument is set to fly past Earth today, data from NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) shows.

The space rock, dubbed 2019 YP5, will come within around 1.9 million miles of our planet at 12:58 p.m. ET on February 10, equivalent to roughly eight times the average distance between Earth and the moon.

At the time of close approach, the asteroid will be traveling at around 30,000 miles per hour, some forty times faster than the speed of sound.

The CNEOS estimates that the asteroid could measure anywhere between 301 feet and 688 feet in diameter.

At the midpoint of this estimate, the space rock would be roughly the same size as the Washington Monument.

At the upper end, the space rock would be slightly taller than the Space Needle in Seattle and almost the same height as the Golden Gate Bridge.

The orbit of this asteroid is well-known and there is no chance it will strike the Earth in the foreseeable future.

2019 YP5 is what's known as a "near-Earth object" or "NEO." This term refers to asteroids and comets in orbit around our sun that can travel within 30 million miles of Earth's own orbital path.

Despite its size, significantly larger NEOs than 2019 YP5 are scheduled to fly past Earth this year.

For example, a gigantic space rock dubbed 2001 FO32 will come within 1.3 million miles at 11:03 a.m. ET on March 21, 2021.

This space rock is estimated to measure between 2,526 feet (0.47 miles) and 5,577 feet (1.05 miles) across.

"This object's size is only known with limits but it is likely to be about one kilometer in diameter—or about two-thirds of a mile," Don Yeomans, a former NASA planetary scientist and longtime NEO tracker, told Newsweek.

This means 2001 FO32 is the largest asteroid to make a close Earth approach in 2021, according to Yeomans.

The relative velocity of the asteroid is also the largest for an Earth close approach in 2021, the scientist said.

At the time of close approach the object will be traveling at a staggering speed of around 76,980 miles per hour. This is around 100 times faster than the speed of the sound.

Even though 2001 FO32 is the largest asteroid to make a close Earth approach in 2021, it still pales in comparison to the biggest known asteroids in the solar system. For example, the largest asteroid that we know about, known as Ceres, measures roughly 580 miles across.

An asteroid
Stock image showing an artist's rendering of an asteroid in space. iStock