NASA's asteroid tracking agency has identified the biggest asteroid that will enter Earth's vicinity next month. According to the space agency, the approaching asteroid has an estimated diameter of 620 meters.
NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) identified the approaching asteroid as 481394 (2006 SF6). This asteroid was first observed on September 17, 2006. Based on NASA's observations, this asteroid is known to approach Earth on almost a yearly basis. Aside from Earth, the agency noted that the asteroid will also fly past Venus regularly starting in 2062.
As per CNEOS, 481394 (2006 SF6) is currently flying towards Earth at a speed of almost 29,000 kilometres per hour. With its estimated diameter of 620 meters, the asteroid is more than two times larger than the Guoco Tower, which is the current title-holder for the tallest building in Singapore.
481394 (2006 SF6) is officially classified as an Aten asteroid. This means that as it orbits around the Sun, it occasionally intersects with Earth's path. Due to its massive size as well as its natural orbit, CNEOS labelled 481394 (2006 SF6) as a potentially hazardous asteroid. This suggests that the space rock has a chance of colliding with Earth during its near-planet intersections.
"Potentially Hazardous Asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth," CNEOS explained in a statement. "Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 [astronomical units] or less and an absolute magnitude (H) of 22.0 or less are considered [potentially hazardous asteroids]."
According to CNEOS, the last time 481394 (2006 SF6) approached Earth was on February 26. During this time, the asteroid approached the planet from a distance of 0.31191 astronomical units or roughly 47 million kilometres away. In its upcoming visit, however, the asteroid will be flying much closer to Earth.
As indicated in CNEOS' database, 481394 (2006 SF6) will fly past Earth on November 21. During the approach, its closest distance to Earth will be 0.02886 astronomical units or about 4.3 million kilometers away. 481394 (2006 SF6) is not expected to return to Earth's neighborhood until November 5, 2020. During this time, the asteroid will zip past the planet from a distance of 0.43164 astronomical units or 65 million kilometres away.