The European Space Agency (ESA) has added a new asteroid to its Risk List due to the threat it poses on Earth. Aside from the ESA, NASA is also monitoring the massive space rock after detecting over 20 potential Earth impact events caused by the asteroid.
2019 WW4's Features and Classification
As indicated in ESA's asteroid database, 2019 WW4 is very massive with an estimated diameter of about 400 meters. Given its size, this asteroid is larger than the Empire State building in New York. According to the ESA, the asteroid is currently traveling at incredible speeds of up to 51,000 kilometers per hour.
2019 WW4 belongs to a family of asteroids known as Apollos. This means that like other Apollo asteroids, 2019 WW4 follows an Earth-crossing path as it makes its way through the Solar System. From time to time, the asteroid's orbit intersects with that of Earth as it moves around the Sun.
NASA's Asteroid Tracking System
In addition to the ESA, NASA is also tracking 2019 WW4 through its asteroid impact monitoring system known as Sentry. As indicated by the data collected by NASA's system, the massive asteroid could cause 26 potential impacts on Earth.
According to NASA and the ESA, these potential impacts could happen in a couple of decades starting in 2036 until 2116. Within this timeframe, the agencies noted that the asteroid's greatest chance of hitting Earth would happen on Aug. 25, 2044.
2019 WW4's Potential Earth Impact
Aside from the asteroid's natural Earth-crossing orbit, the asteroid's potential Earth impacts also depend on various factors. One of these is the gravitational pull of large objects such as planets and moons. Whenever the asteroid passes near these objects, their gravitational pull could nudge the asteroid into a collision path with Earth.
If 2019 WW4 ends up hitting the planet, it would cause a major impact event due to its massive size and current speed. The energy that would be released from its impact would be powerful enough to incinerate and completely wipe out an entire major city and the areas around it.