NASA is currently monitoring an asteroid that's expected to approach Earth this Saturday. Due to the asteroid's size and current speed, it is capable of causing a powerful explosion in the sky if it collides with Earth.
The approaching asteroid was detected by the agency's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Dubbed as 2008 EA9, CNEOS noted that this asteroid is currently flying towards Earth at a speed of almost 8,000 kilometres per hour. According to the agency, the asteroid has an estimated diameter of about 17 meters.
2008 EA9's Dangerous Natural Orbit
As indicated in CNEOS' database, 2008 EA9 belongs to the Apollo asteroid family. Like other Apollos, 2008 EA9 follows a wide orbit that goes around the Sun and Earth. Occasionally, the asteroid's orbit intersects with that of Earth.
Since the asteroid follows an Earth-crossing orbit, there's a chance that it might collide with the planet every time it visits Earth's vicinity. However, since the asteroid is a bit small and is not travelling quite fast enough, 2008 EA9 will most likely explode in the sky shortly after entering the atmosphere during a collision with Earth.
2008 EA9 And The 2013 Mid-Air Explosion Over Russia
Although the asteroid will not hit the ground, this doesn't mean that it's not dangerous. For instance, back in 2013, an asteroid slightly bigger than 2008 EA9 entered the atmosphere and exploded over Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia. Reports stated that the energy from the asteroid's blast was about 30 times more powerful than an atomic bomb.
Although much of the explosion was absorbed by the atmosphere, the remaining energy from the blast still caused significant damage on the ground. According to reports, the incident seriously injured about 1,500 people and damaged around 7,000 buildings in the area.
Asteroid 2008 EA9's Near-Earth Visits
According to CNEOS, the last time 2008 EA9 flew past Earth was on Feb. 3, 2008. During this time, it approached the planet from a distance of 0.00414 astronomical units, which is equivalent to about 618,000 kilometres away.
For its visit on Saturday, CNEOS noted that 2008 EA9 will approach Earth from a much farther distance compared to its 2008 flyby. As stated by the agency, this asteroid is expected to debut in Earth's vicinity on Nov. 23 at 11:50 pm SGT. The asteroid will be about 0.02697 astronomical units or roughly 4 million kilometres from Earth's centre during its visit.