NASA has spotted two of the biggest asteroids that are expected to approach Earth in December. According to the agency's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the two approaching asteroids are about twice as big as the tallest skyscrapers in New York.
The approaching asteroids have been identified by CNEOS as 216258 (2006 WH1) and 310442 (2000 CH59). Due to the estimated diameters and natural orbits of these two space rocks, they have been labeled by CNEOS as potentially hazardous asteroids. This means they are capable of causing serious damage to Earth if they collide with the planet.
According to CNEOS, 216258 (2006 WH1) is currently approaching Earth with an average speed of about 42,000 kilometers per hour. The agency estimated that the asteroid has a diameter of 540 meters. Due to its immense size, the asteroid is almost twice as big as the Swissotel The Stamford, which was once regarded as the tallest hotel in the world.
The second large asteroid that will enter Earth's vicinity next month is called 310442 (2000 CH59). This asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of over 44,000 kilometers per hour. Compared to 216258 (2006 WH1), 310442 (2000 CH59) is significantly bigger. According to CNEOS, this asteroid has an estimated diameter of 620 meters.
The Earth-Crossing Orbits of 216258 (2006 WH1) and 310442 (2000 CH59)
216258 (2006 WH1) is a member of a family of asteroids known as Apollos. According to CNEOS, the orbit of Apollo asteroids go beyond the Earth and the Sun. However, they are occasionally known to intersect the path of Earth as it completes its cycle around the Sun.
As for 310442 (2000 CH59), this space boulder is classified as an Aten asteroid. Like the other asteroids that belong to this group, 310442 (2000 CH59) also intersects Earth's orbit. Aten asteroids usually cross Earth's path twice during their orbits around the Sun.
Near-Earth visits of 216258 (2006 WH1) and 310442 (2000 CH59)
216258 (2006 WH1) And 310442 (2000 CH59) are both expected to intersect Earth's orbit next month. But, as noted by CNEOS, they are not in danger of hitting Earth. 216258 (2006 WH1) will fly past the planet on Dec. 20 at 11:17 pm SGT from a safe distance of 0.03904 astronomical units or roughly 5.8 million kilometers away.
310442 (2000 CH59), on the other hand, is expected the approach the planet on Dec. 26 at 3:54 pm SGT. During its approach, the massive asteroid will be about 0.04874 astronomical units or 7.3 million kilometers from Earth.