An asteroid roughly the size of the Stonehenge monument will make a close pass by Earth Tuesday, but astronomers say they are confident the space rock will miss the planet.
The asteroid, called Asteroid 2011 ES4, is expected to pass closer than the moon is to the Earth, though scientists say the path is still a bit uncertain.
Astronomers say they were able to track the object for only four days after it was detected on March 2, 2011. After that, it became too faint to be observed, making it impossible to track accurately, according to an article in EarthSky.
The asteroid has been classified a “Near-Earth Object,” or a comet or asteroid “that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood,” according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
NASA uses the Torino Scale, a scale ranging from 0 to 10, to classify these objects and their potential to strike Earth. “The Torino Scale … captures the likelihood and consequences of a potential impact event,” according to the CNEOS.
The higher the Torino Scale number, the more extraordinary the event, the website said.
While the ES4 asteroid has a high number – a 7 on the Torino Scale – astronomers say even if it were to hit Earth, the impact would not be catastrophic because of the size of the asteroid. ES4 is estimated to have a diameter of 72 to 161 feet.
If it did hit the Earth’s atmosphere, it would likely cause a shockwave, but not do significant damage to the planet.
An asteroid the size of an SUV set the record last month for coming closer to Earth than any other known Near-Earth Asteroid. On Aug. 16, it passed 1,830 miles above the southern Indian Ocean.
Astronomers feel confident that the asteroid, while close by space standards, will miss the Earth by at least 45,000 miles. It’s expected to pass by a little after noon Tuesday EDT.
Cox Media Group