Asteroid Four Times Larger Than Eiffel Tower Headed Toward Earth

by Taylor Cunningham

An enormous asteroid is soaring towards earth as we type. And it’s classed as “potentially hazardous” by NASA.

But don’t worry Outsiders, that just means that when it flies by, it’ll be around 3 million miles away from our planet. To put that in perspective, that’s 10 times further from us than the moon.

The “potentially hazardous” classification comes from a special algorithm that the Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) uses to gauge if a rock could make what it calls a “threatening close approach” to Earth.

To be considered hazardous, an asteroid must be bigger than 500 feet in diameter and have the potential to come closer than 4.6 million miles to Earth.

Giant Asteroid Isn’t a Threat to Humanity

Because the space rock is astoundingly huge, we’re happy it’s staying at a safe distance.

According to Newsweek, the asteroid—simply called 138971—is thought to be 4,265 feet in diameter. That means that it’s roughly four times as wide as the Eiffel Tower is tall. The size makes it bigger than around 97 percent of the known asteroids floating in space.

138971 should cruise by Earth at a speed of 26,800 miles per hour on March 4th at around 3 am. But because it’s so far away, you won’t be able to watch unless you have a NASA-sized telescope.

But if you’d like to see pictures of the behemoth, Gianluca Masi, an astronomer at the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, has been tracking its path and photographing it along the way. You can see the pics here.

Though in the pictures, the asteroid is more than 21.5 million miles away. So, it doesn’t look as big as it sounds.

Interestingly, 138971 orbits our sun once every 384 days or so. Meaning this isn’t the first or last time it will pass by. Whether it will come as close or closer in the future, we don’t know. And neither does NASA.

But because NASA admits that an asteroid collision is a genuine concern, it is working on a way to protect us from the threat.

Currently, the administration is heading the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The $325 million mission hopes to nudge a non-threatening asteroid off of its path. 

On November 24th, 2021, NASA launched the space rock-bound vessel atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Over the course of a year, it will travel to an asteroid system that is more than 6.5 million. 

When the craft reaches its destination, it will target an asteroid measuring 525 feet across that orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos.

Neither of the rocks pose any threat to humanity. But NASA believes that the system is a “perfect testing ground” for whether it can effectively redirect an asteroid.