House-sized Asteroid to Pass Closer to Earth Than the Moon

An asteroid the size of a house is due to soar past Earth today, coming twice as close to our planet as the moon's orbit.

This asteroid, named 2023 RR5, is estimated to be around 20 feet in diameter, about the height of a two-story house, or a giraffe.

The asteroid will zip past Earth at its closest point at around 1 p.m. UTC, or 9 a.m. EST, according to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), passing at a distance of around 0.00139 astronomical units, or roughly 130,000 miles. For comparison, the moon is about 240,000 miles from Earth, while the sun is 93.539 million miles away.

2023 RR5 is one of the roughly 1 million asteroids discovered by NASA so far.

asteroid passing moon
Stock image of an asteroid passing between the Earth and the moon. Asteroid 2023 RR5 is due to pass halfway between the Earth and the moon on September 13, 2023. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

"Asteroids are 'bits of a planet that didn't happen' that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Asteroid Belt," Jay Tate, director of the Spaceguard Center observatory in the United Kingdom, previously told Newsweek. "However, as they are relatively small, asteroids can be disturbed quite easily, so they can develop orbits that cross those of planets."

At only 20 feet across, 2023 RR5 is fairly small. Asteroids can reach much greater sizes, including Ceres and Vesta in the asteroid belt, which measure around 600 miles and 330 miles across, respectively.

Asteroids are occasionally flung out of the asteroid belt due to interactions with Jupiter's gargantuan gravitational field, sending them careening close to the Earth.

"We believe they formed in the asteroid belt and got ejected by impact, or their orbits were destabilized due to the presence of Jupiter resonances in the belt," Franck Marchis, a senior planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute, told Newsweek last year.

Stock image of an asteroid passing Earth. 2023 RR5 is estimated to be around 20 feet in diameter, roughly the size of a two-story house. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

2023 RR5 is forecast to zoom past Earth at 13.79 kilometers per second, or around 31,000 miles per hour, which is about 12 times faster than a rifle bullet. Due to its proximity to the Earth, it is classified by NASA as a "near-Earth object" or NEO, which are asteroids closer to the Earth than 30 million miles away.

There are around 31,000 asteroids in this category, as this is quite an expansive radius. Our closest planetary neighbor, Venus, is just outside at its closest point to us, at 38 million miles.

Some NEO asteroids are also classed as "potentially hazardous objects" or "potentially hazardous asteroids," due to being closer than 4.6 million miles away from Earth, and also being larger than 460 feet across.

"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," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, previously told Newsweek.

asteroid collision
Stock image of an asteroid falling to Earth. Asteroid 2023 RR5 is forecast to zoom past Earth at 31,000 miles per hour. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Due to its smaller size, 2023 RR5 does not make the cut to be a potentially hazardous asteroid. However, if a larger asteroid classified as potentially hazardous did hit the Earth, the results would be catastrophic.

"An asteroid 100-200 meters [330-650 feet] in diameter would cause a regional disaster, taking out a small country, but with the resulting global consequences in terms of the global economy and 'globalization,'" Tate told Newsweek in August 2022.

This is incredibly unlikely to happen any time soon, according to NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

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