An asteroid larger than 12 football fields that is set to pass near Earth early next month is being watched by NASA as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” or PHA.
The asteroid, named 2002 AJ129, is estimated by NASA to be as many as 0.68 miles in diameter—more than the height of the world’s largest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the width of Central Park, both of which are about half a mile.
While that may seem like a long way away, NASA monitors any asteroids within 28 million miles from Earth, called “near-Earth objects,” as potentially dangerous, NASA reports.
Asteroids are sometimes referred to as minor planets or planetoids, and are rocky bodies that have no atmosphere.
NASA is particularly concerned about asteroids that are over 500 feet in diameter and closer than 4.6 million miles from Earth. These types of asteroids are classified as PHAs.
Fortunately, AJ129 is not expected to do any damage.
If a large enough asteroid was to hit Earth though, it could spell the end of life as we know it.
Scientists now believe that it was an asteroid or comet that led to the extinction of dinosaurs and many other animals 65 million years ago. NASA found a crater 112 miles wide and about half a mile deep near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that they believe was created by an asteroid or comet.
Fortunately, NASA scientists say that the asteroids they are tracking near Earth are not expected to hit us for at least a century, according to the forcasted predictions.
In 1998 and again in 2005, Congress charged NASA with cataloging the PHAs and, like in the movie “Armageddon,” creating a plan to divert them if they were to come near Earth, Vox reported.
NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies believes it has already cataloged some 90 percent of the larger ones, but the center is finding new smaller ones every day.
And it is the smaller ones, which have the potential to destroy a city or town, that NASA is most worried about.
“The small ones are the hardest to find, of course,” Donald Yeomans, the former manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Vox. “And the next impact we have is almost certainly going to be something small.”