Don’t panic: An asteroid larger than the Empire State Building is flying past Earth this weekend but we’re just fine

An asteroid described as larger than the Empire State Building will whizz past Earth, making its closest approach on 6 June.

Stretching up to 570 meters across, the space rock is bigger than the iconic skyscraper in the skyline of Manhattan, New York at 381 meters. Although the sheer size of the looming asteroid known as 2002 NN4 is pretty frightening, it’s expected to pass within 3.2 million miles of our planet or roughly 13 times the distance between the Earth and Moon.

The near-Earth object is larger than 90 per cent of most asteroids and has been on NASA’s watchlist for awhile. It was classified as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” when it was discovered in 2002.

The object belongs to the Aten-class asteroids, a label given to rocks that have a semi-major axis of less than one astronomical unit – the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

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The group, consisting of over 1,125 known asteroids, are all near-Earth objects. 2002 NN4 has an orbital period of 300 days and rotational period 14.5 days. It’s expected to speed pass terra firma at just over 11 kilometers per second.

The hefty rock is expected to fly by Earth fairly frequently, and is expected to complete about 30 close approaches over the next 167 years.

The next visit will be at a similar date in about nine years’ time. In exactly fifty years, it’s expected to make its closest approach yet at a distance of 1,519,197 kilometers (~ 943,985 miles) so don’t let this weekend’s visit keep you up at night. ®

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