Giant Asteroid Larger Than World's Tallest Building Is Set to Sail Past Earth

A giant asteroid bigger than the world's tallest building will zoom safely past Earth on Friday, according to NASA.

The space rock—dubbed 163373 (2002 PZ39)—is thought to measure between around 1,400 and 3,200 feet in diameter based on the object's magnitude, data from the space agency's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) indicates.

At the upper range, this would mean the asteroid would stand higher than the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the tallest structure on Earth.

2002 PZ39 will make its close approach at 11:05 a.m. Universal Time (6:05 a.m. EST) on February 15, when it will fly past our planet at a distance of around 3.6 million miles, or around 15 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.

The asteroid will fly past at a speed of nearly 34,000 miles per hour—which is about 20 times as fast as an F-16 jet fighter flying at maximum velocity.

The trajectory of 2002 PZ3 is well-known and scientists say that there is no chance that it will strike our planet during this approach.

Nevertheless, the asteroid is defined as a "potentially hazardous" near-Earth object (NEO) by the CNEOS.

Near-Earth objects are any comet or asteroid with a projected trajectory that comes within 121 million miles of our star, or 30 million miles of the Earth's own orbital path.

"Potentially hazardous" essentially means any NEO with an estimated diameter of more than 460 feet that will make a close approach to Earth in future within a distance of 0.05 astronomical units or around 4.6 million miles.

Stock photo: Artist's illustration of an asteroid. iStock

There are more than 25,000 NEOs larger than 460 feet in diameter we are currently aware of, according to CNEOS director Paul Chodas. However, the true number is likely to be higher, as it is estimated that we have only identified 35 percent of the overall figure. Around 5,000 of these known NEOs meet the criteria to be classified as potentially hazardous.

"Close approaches by asteroids of this size (a few hundred meters) at these quite large distances (15 to 20 lunar distances) are not unusual at all: they happen roughly once a month or so, on average," Chodas previously told Newsweek.

"There are some asteroids which have an exceedingly small chance of impacting Earth over the next couple centuries," he said. "Asteroid Bennu currently has a one-in-a-few-thousand chance of impacting a couple of centuries from now, but as we continue to track this asteroid, I expect that chance to drop to zero. None of the other known asteroids has a significant chance of impacting Earth over the next century."