Asteroid Bigger than Pyramid Set for Closest Approach to Earth for Century

A asteroid bigger than Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza is due to fly by Earth on August 20 in its closest encounter with our planet for 100 years.

The asteroid, named 2019 AV13, is estimated to measure between around 330 feet and 750 feet in diameter—making it about the size of the 455-foot Great Pyramid.

It is forecasted to zoom by at a speed of around 20,000 mph, and will pass at a distance of 13.8 Lunar Distances, with one Lunar Distance being the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

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Stock image of an asteroid. Asteroid 2019 AV13, which may be around 700 foot in diameter, is due to pass relatively close to Earth. iStock / Getty Images Plus

The last time the asteroid came this close was in 1914, and the next time it will come within a similar distance will be 2113. The asteroid poses no risk to Earth.

Most asteroids come from the Asteroid Belt orbiting our sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroids in this area vary hugely in size from only a few feet to the gargantuan Ceres, which is 600 miles in diameter. Occasionally, gravitational interaction pushes asteroids out of their belt and towards the Sun, which sometimes takes them on a close fly-by with Earth

Other asteroids often come closer to the Earth than AW13, but rarely are they as large as this asteroid. Its size and proximity on a interplanetary scale classifies it as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), which according to SpaceWeather.com is a space rock larger than approximately 100m [330 feet] that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU (5 percent of the distance between the Earth and Sun). AW13 will pass by at 0.03531 AU, or around 3.2 million miles.

Earth's closest planetary neighbor, Venus, is still 38 million miles away at its closest point, for reference.

"The 100 year interval between events is purely a statistical construct based on the number of objects of a particular size, their orbits and an arbitrary miss distance, so 100 years is an average. In fact it is just as likely that we'll have another similar close approach next year as we will in a century," Jay Tate, director of the The Spaceguard Center observatory, tells Newsweek.

The risk of any large asteroid hitting Earth is incredibly low. NASA said there are no asteroids that pose a significant risk of hitting Earth in the next century.

"We can be sure that it is not going to collide with Earth because, with sufficient follow-up observations, we can calculate the asteroid's orbit with high precision," Tate said.

"Initially orbits are imprecise, so we can produce an error ellipse at the time of orbit intersection with Earth. If the Earth is in the error ellipse we have a calculable probability of collision. However, as more observations are made the error ellipse gets smaller as the orbit becomes more precise, and as soon as the Earth leaves the ellipse we can be certain that no collision will occur."

However, if an asteroid of the same magnitude as AW13 did one day hit the Earth, it would be catastrophic.

"An asteroid 100-200m [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,'" said Tate.

Asteroid impacts, as with nuclear weapons and volcanic eruptions, can send a huge amount of soot into the Earth's atmosphere. The larger the impact, the more soot is launched into the stratosphere, blocking out our sun and potentially leading to a worldwide famine: a study published in the journal Nature Food estimates that 5 Tg (around 11 billion pounds) of soot in the atmosphere would severely impact crop growth in nearly every country.

Correction 08/22/22 4.05 a.m. ET: This article was updated to state this is the closest that asteroid AW13 has passed Earth for 100 years.