back to article 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 …

  1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge


    "a label given to rocks that have a semi-major axis of less than one astronomical unit" - Isn't that all of them? Though a rock larger than 1AU would also be larger than the Empire State Building, so maybe the distinction is important.

    Yeah, I could just assume a missing "an orbit with", but where would be the fun in that?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Aten-class?

      A rock larger than 1AU* across entering the solar system would be a very bad day for the entire solar system, and very probably it's last one.

      * 1AU = 6,789,000,000 Brontosaurus (93,000,000 miles)

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Aten-class?

        It's not physically possible for a rock that size to exist though.

        Once a rocky world reaches roughly the mass of Jupiter, gravitational collapse happens faster than matter can be added to it. (The faster you add mass, the faster it collapses.) The increased pressure and heat in the core would result in a white dwarf forming. If you were able to keep adding matter, at around 1.3 solar masses, the white dwarf would, depending on its composition, either go supernova, or transform into a neutron star.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Aten-class?

          Doesn't have to be solid, a Dyson sphere would be even bigger at about 2 AU in diameter but would appear solid to the eye.

          That assumes a star like ours, if it was a red dwarf in the middle the Dyson would be much smaller, 1AU would probably be too big if you wanted 15ºC to 25ºC at the surface.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Aten-class?

            Accidentally hoovered up my Chris Barrie mini-fig the other day. Nothing happened.

          2. Def Silver badge

            Re: Aten-class?

            Dyson Spheres aren't single objects. A completely solid shell around a star is equally impossible.

            The spheres Dyson imagined are swarms of disconnected panels orbiting a star.

  2. redpawn Silver badge

    Ignore clickbait?

    Are you mad? Are you even El Reg?

    We are not fine even if it will miss us. We will be lucky to survive until it hits us next time.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Ignore clickbait?

      "We will be lucky to survive until it hits us next time."

      What's with the defeatist attitude? I for one fully plan on being here.

      May as well have a beer while we wait. It's the civilized thing to do.

      1. redpawn Silver badge

        Re: Ignore clickbait?

        Already had four at 9%. Not getting any better I fear.

      2. el_oscuro

        Re: Ignore clickbait?

        Maybe you should have 3. I think that is the required amount (plus peanuts) required to successfully use the Electronic Sub-Etha Signaling Device.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Ignore clickbait?

      We're all doomed!

      I can state that with extreme confidence, but it's highly unlikely it will be today for most of us, or next week but eventually entropy or something will get us all.

      That won't stop me having a beer or a nice glass of wine this afternoon with the neighbours.


  3. TheProf Silver badge

    Lucky break

    Hell's Tits!

    I've just been out for a walk in Liverpool and I only missed, by 3310 miles, colliding with The Empire State Building.

  4. codemonkey

    That's all well and good, but...

    How many swimming pools away will it be?

  5. steamnut

    future orbits?

    After from being disappointed about the size comparison not using the size of Wales I put my physics hat on. If this asteroid as a mass then surely, as it passes the earth, it will get a small "tug". This "tug" will affect the orbit a little each time it passes. This affect is used to slingshot space probes so it does work. This led me to wonder if anyone calculates this affect when predicting future passes.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: future orbits?

      > if anyone calculates this affect when predicting future passes

      If they didn't there wouldn't be any point in calculating future passes, would there.

    2. Bill Gray

      Re: future orbits?

      It doesn't have _nearly_ enough mass to have a noticeable effect on us.

      I write software for determining asteroid orbits from observations. _Usually_, the effects of asteroids perturbing asteroids are so small that they're lost in the noise. In some cases, if you're lucky and an asteroid is big enough, you see a noticeable perturbation on some other, usually smaller, asteroid... which is nice, because the amount of the perturbation can tell you the mass of the other (larger) asteroid.

      For this to happen, you usually need the two rocks to go past each other fairly closely and slowly. There are a few hundred cases where we've been able to do this and get a reasonably decent measurement of asteroid mass. With the exception of a few spacecraft flybys (Galileo past Ida and Gaspra, for example), and a couple of tiny objects (couple meters across) where we could measure how much solar radiation pressure affected them, that's the source of everything we know about asteroid masses (and from that, asteroid density).

      The rocks for which we've measured masses are usually dozens to hundreds of kilometers in diameter. For the bigger guys, the percentage errors can be quite small.

    3. Grikath

      Re: future orbits?

      At 16 to a minimum of 5 lunar orbits that gravitational tug is so small that any deviations in orbit would end up in the realm of geological timescale, not human generations.

      At its size, a chance encounter with a decent-sized rock would add more random momentum than Earth + Moon could ever do in a couple 100k years.

      Edited to add: A gravity assist requires losing mass. Unless that rock has a method of shedding mass as it's going into a gravity well, it's a zero-sum equation coming out.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I that "we're just fine" or "we're JUST fine" ?

  7. Denarius Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    wot, no panic now ?

    A chance to panic, scream and curse blaming someone for stuffing up and you say "Dont Panic "? What is this, Hitchhikers Guide ? You are hurting the Woke. Oh the pain, the shame

  8. Grikath


    Given that lunar orbit equates to one light-second ( give or take a couple of olympic swimming pools) ...

    This approach will be at 13 light-seconds, closest approach within a reasonable timeframe will be 5 light-seconds, and the orbits don't even intersect. It just comes close...ish.. For a given value of "close".

    Not a threat, but close enough to toss a probe or two at it to see what it's made of now that his Muskness seems to have this rocketry thing mostly sorted out.

  9. myootnt

    Saying it even though it goes without saying

    We should lie down and/or put paper bags over our heads.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bigger than the empire state building...

    I've been inside too long. Can you quote sizes in social distancing units please?

    I.e. about the size of the queue outside the Sainsbury's in Wallington.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: bigger than the empire state building...

      Quite a large number of Richard Osmans? That seems to be the unit everyone's settled on

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: bigger than the empire state building...

      Don't confuse length with bigness.

      For everything else, refer to the definitive guide - The Reg standards converter

  11. NorthIowan

    If you want to worry about meteors hitting the planet.

    Keep an eye on towards the bottom of the page.

    Nice chart of all know asteroids coming by in the next few months. The ones with pink backgrounds get within about 1 million miles and red background is closer than the moon. Do understand the sizes are very rough as they are estimates depending on brightness for all the new ones.

    For reverence, meteor crater in Arizona is 1186 m across and was made by a meteor about 50 meters across. And the one that went boom in Russia a few years back was estimated to be 20 m or so.

    The new ones have names like 2020 JX1 where "2020" is the year it was discovered and the "JX1" gives an idea of when in the year it was found.

    Oh, 2020 JX1 is about 60 m and goes by on June 29th at less than a million miles. They just found it a few weeks ago so not sure if they have a real good orbit figured out yet.

    Pleasent dreams.

  12. Frumious Bandersnatch

    "but we're just fine"

    ... until we're not.

  13. Aussie Doc Bronze badge

    "Don't panic..."

    You're not fooling me with your 'don't panic' bravado - I went straight out and bought 300 rolls of toilet paper just in case.

    Fool me once and all that.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "Don't panic..."

      I don't think wrapping yourself in 300 rolls of toilet paper even if it is 3ply, will cushion the blow much if the asteroid hits you.

      Maybe it will be more of a Pffft! Rather than a bang.

      1. Sammy Smalls

        Re: "Don't panic..."

        It would soak up the goo though.

  14. PJL500

    Michael Fish...

    There was a similar "there isn't, don't worry" prediction in the 80's by British weatherman Michael Fish... . Wrong: biggest storm in 3 centuries. This thing is going to hit!

    1. NorthIowan

      Re: Michael Fish...

      The ~20 m meteor that exploded over Russia a few years back did happen to come down on the same day as another asteroid was coming very close to earth. They were in totally different orbits, but there really are a lot that come close.

  15. Joe Gurman


    If you were going to compare a single dimension of the object to the heigh too building in New York City, perhaps One World Trade Center (541 m) would have been closer?

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Or....

      Isn't 1WTC rather shorter than 541m now?

  16. Theythinkitsallover

    Units of measurement

    Now that we have left the Common Market, can we go back to measuring these things in Nelson's Columns or Double-decker buses?

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Units of measurement

      Well, as a Yank I kind of understand the size comparison (having been to NYC on more occasions than I would have liked), but shouldn't it be rated in Albert Hall's or something? (and wasn't it already determined how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall?)

  17. SkippyBing

    To be honest the way things are going the asteroid hitting would be a welcome relief.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank you empire state building sized baked potato

    For not wiping out civilization as we know it.

  19. JCitizen

    Total destruction..

    An iron asteroid only 40 feet wide traveling at typical velocities in space, would destroy New York city; so one the size of the Empire State would totally flatten it!!

    1. Twanky

      Re: Total destruction..

      ...would totally flatten it!

      You're looking at it wrong: It would destroy NYC 100 times over.

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