Asteroid 3.5x Bigger Than Great Pyramid of Giza to Fly Past Earth This Week

A huge asteroid up to 1,600 feet in diameter is due to fly past Earth this week.

The space rock, called 2015 DR215, is classed as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) according to NASA. However, it is not expected to collide with Earth any time in foreseeable future.

2015 DR215's expected trajectory will take it on a path past our planet described as a "close approach" by NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). However, even at its closest point the asteroid will still be around 4.1 million miles away from our planet—more than 17 times further away from us than the moon is.

The upper estimate of 2015 DR215's diameter means it is about three-and-a-half times as big as the Great Pyramid of Giza is tall. At the lower estimate, 2015 DR215's diameter is about 721 feet. The space rock will be moving at around 18,500 miles per hour when it passes Earth.

The asteroid is due to make its close approach to our planet at around 1:41 a.m. ET on March 11, according to CNEOS.

2015 DR215 orbits the sun faster than the Earth does and it's not that uncommon for the asteroid to come relatively close to our planet. In 2028 it's expected to do so again, though it will not pose any danger to us then, either, CNEOS data shows.

Potentially hazardous asteroids sound concerning, but just because some asteroids have this label does not necessarily mean they will ever hit Earth. PHAs are defined based on a space rock's potential to make threatening close approaches to Earth.

Generally, if an asteroid can't get any closer to Earth than about 4,650,000 miles or is smaller than about 500 feet in diameter then it is not considered to be a PHA.

Still, astronomers monitor thousands of asteroids in the solar system including many PHAs in order to make sure that none pose an imminent danger to our planet.

As of March 7, astronomers had discovered about 28,000 near-Earth asteroids, around 1,000 of which were over a kilometer (0.62 miles) in diameter.

Asteroid strikes may sound like something out of science fiction but they can and do occur. In 2013 a roughly house-sized space rock exploded over the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia, releasing energy equivalent to 440,000 tons of TNT and generating a shock wave that blew out windows over 200 square miles. More than 1,600 people were injured, according to NASA, mostly due to broken glass.

In 2021 NASA launched its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to test technology that may be capable of changing the trajectory of a threatening asteroid.

Experts have previously told Newsweek about the various other ways in which humanity may be able to defend itself from a looming space rock.

Asteroid
A stock photo shows an illustration of an asteroid in space against a backdrop of stars. Astronomers are tracking tens of thousands of asteroids in space and are testing technology that could be capable of deflecting threatening ones away from Earth. dottedhippo/Getty