- NASA detected an asteroid approaching Earth
- 2020 FB2 follows an Earth-intersecting orbit
- The asteroid could cause a powerful airburst
NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) is currently monitoring a massive asteroid that’s expected to approach Earth tomorrow. Based on the data collected by the agency, there’s a chance the incoming asteroid could cause a violent mid-air explosion if it hits the planet.
According to CNEOS, the approaching asteroid is known as 2020 FB2. The agency estimated that it is about 128 feet wide. It is currently moving across the Solar System toward Earth at an incredible speed of over 24,000 miles per hour.
Based on 2020 FB2’s natural orbit, the asteroid is a member of the Apollo family of space rocks. As an Apollo asteroid, 2020 FB2 follows an Earth-crossing orbit, which means it occasionally intersects the path of Earth as it travels around the Sun.
Aside from Earth, 2020 FB2 is also known to cross the orbits of other planets such as Mars and Venus.
The asteroid’s natural orbit indicates that it could hit Earth if its trajectory changes. Due to its size and speed, 2020 FB2 will most likely not hit the ground during a collision. Instead, the asteroid will burn up in the sky and cause a violent explosion in the atmosphere.
Given its size, 2020 FB2 could detonate at an altitude of about 29,000 to 55,000 feet in the air. Although this may seem like a safe distance from the ground, the blast from the asteroid could release kinetic energy equivalent to around 60 atomic bombs.
Even if the bulk of its explosion gets absorbed by the atmosphere, the remaining energy could still be powerful enough to affect those in the ground by damaging buildings and injuring people.
According to CNEOS, 2020 FB2 will intersect Earth’s orbit on March 20 at 6:24 pm EDT. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.01489 astronomical units or roughly 1.4 million miles from Earth as it crosses its path.
Based on its trajectory, NASA predicted that 2020 FB2’s next near-Earth approach would happen on Feb. 21, 2038. According to the agency, the asteroid will pass by Earth from a distance of 0.48768 astronomical units or about 45 million miles away.
Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA