NASA monitoring Statue of Liberty-sized asteroid whose natural orbit crosses Earth's path set to arrive today

Named 2020 AO, the approaching asteroid has an estimated diameter of about 269 feet, making it almost as big as the Statue of Liberty. It is currently moving towards the Earth at speeds of over 43,000 miles per hour, per NASA


                            NASA monitoring Statue of Liberty-sized asteroid whose natural orbit crosses Earth's path set to arrive today
(NASA)

A massive asteroid is currently being monitored by NASA as it is expected to approach near Earth's orbit on Tuesday. The giant celestial body could result in a considerable impact event if it were to collide with the planet, according to data collected by the agency’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), Fox2Now reports.

Named 2020 AO, the approaching asteroid has an estimated diameter of about 269 feet, making it almost as big as the Statue of Liberty. It is currently moving towards the Earth at speeds of over 43,000 miles per hour, per the agency. 

However, this time around the 2020 AO is not in danger of hitting the planet. It is expected to fly past our home planet on January 14 at 1:13 p.m. EST, per CNEOS. The asteroid would maintain a safe distance from Earth -- roughly 2.2 million miles from the planet’s center.

The 2020 AO is an Apollo asteroid, and members of this class of asteroids have a very wide orbit within the Solar System. The celestial body passes various planets every year, including Mars, Venus, and Mercury. Time and again it intersects the Earth's orbit as the planet revolves around the Sun.

There's a possibility that 2020 AO might collide with the planet in the future as it follows a natural orbit that crosses Earth's path. While asteroids that are less than 300 feet usually don't make it to the ground as they disintegrate and burn off during their atmospheric descent, the 2020 AO's current speed just might give it the additional thrust to penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and thereby cause an impact event on the ground.

Having said that, if the massive asteroid does strike the Earth, it is capable of creating almost a mile-wide crater. 2020 AO is not expected to visit Earth's vicinity again until August 9, 2057, when it will fly past the Earth from a distance of about 7.3 million miles away, per NASA.

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