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22 September


NASA says mountain-sized 'potentially hazardous' asteroid approaching Earth

The space rock is expected to fly past the planet on 21 May

potentially hazardous Photo: NASA

/NOVOSTIVL/ NASA is tracking a mountain-sized "potentially hazardous" asteroid that is approaching Earth at more than 42,000 miles per hour.

The space rock is expected to fly past the planet on Thursday (May 21) at 4:45 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Daylight Time) ― luckily enough, from a safe distance, according to NASA.

"Potentially hazardous asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth," NASA said. "Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 (astronomical units) or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less are considered (potentially hazardous asteroids)."

The asteroid ― identified by NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) as 1997 BQ ― is almost twice as big as the Burj Dubai skyscraper, the tallest man-made structure in the world.

It was first observed on Jan. 16, 1997. After analyzing its trajectory, NASA concluded that the asteroid follows a wide orbit around the sun that takes it into the plane between Mars and Jupiter.

As it makes its way around the sun, the asteroid occasionally intersects Earth's path. Due to this, the asteroid has been labeled a member of the Apollo family of space rocks.

Its massive size and near-Earth orbits are the main reasons 1997 BQ is classified as a potentially hazardous object.