Earth is about to come face to face with a large asteroid next week, called 216258 (2006 WH1). First spotted in 2006 by the La Sagra Observatory, the asteroid will fly by Earth on December 20 at 10:17am EST, according to the NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The asteroid has been classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), which means it is capable of approaching Earth at a dangerously close distance.
NASA’s CNEOS says that the 216258 (2006 WH1) asteroid follows an orbit that intersects directly with the planet’s path. It is currently moving towards Earth at 26,000 miles per hour, and is significantly taller than Willis Tower in Chicago or the Empire State Building in New York. The asteroid has a diameter of 1,772 feet, reports IBTimes. Because of its massive size and its intersecting orbit, the asteroid has been classified as a PHA, and if it hits the planet, it could potentially destroy multiple cities. At its closest approach this year, the asteroid will be about 0.03904 astronomical units or around 3.6 million miles from the planet’s centre, CNEOS reveals.
On its PHA page, NASA explains, “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth. Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) of 0.05 au or less and an absolute magnitude (H) of 22.0 or less are considered PHAs.”
216258 (2006 WH1) asteroid has a very wide orbit and covers many cosmic bodies like Venus, Mercury, and even the Sun. It belongs to the Apollos family of asteroids.