Massive skyscraper-sized asteroid passing Earth today - and you can watch

The asteroid has an estimated size ranging between 190 meters and 430 meters, which could have posed serious danger.

 An asteroid is seen heading towards the planet in this artistic rendition. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
An asteroid is seen heading towards the planet in this artistic rendition.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

A massive asteroid up to 400 meters in size is heading for Earth in a few hours, according to NASA's asteroid tracker – but don't worry, it won't hit us.

Designated 455176 (1999 VF22), the asteroid has an estimated size ranging between 190 meters and 430 meters. Even the smaller size would already be enough for it to pose a significant danger.

According to research from the Davidson Institute of Science, the educational arm of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, an asteroid over 140 meters in diameter would release an amount of energy at least a thousand times greater than that released by the first atomic bomb if it impacted Earth.

Something even larger – over 300 meters wide like the asteroid Apophis or, in our case, the maximum estimated width of 455176 (1999 VF22) – could destroy an entire continent. An asteroid over a kilometer in width could trigger a worldwide cataclysm.

The last major disaster-level asteroid to hit the Earth, the Tunguska incident in 1908, produced an explosion far greater than a nuclear bomb. In fact, it was one of the largest explosions to ever happen on Earth. And that asteroid was estimated to be at most 190 meters in width, around the minimum estimated size of this asteroid.

An asteroid is seen approaching Earth (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)An asteroid is seen approaching Earth (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)

But 455176 (1999 VF22) almost surely won't hit us, passing by the planet at a distance of around 5.36 million kilometers away.

For comparison, the Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of approximately 384,000 kilometers – only a fourteenth as far.

But can we watch the asteroid?

Yes, considering how close the asteroid is flying to Earth. It is too far to see with the naked eye or binoculars, but it is still possible with the right kind of telescope.

An effort was made by the Virtual Telescope Project to watch the asteroid as it flies by. Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to clouds.

However, if one has a sufficiently large enough telescope, around 12 inches or larger in diameter according to EarthSky, they might just be able to see it themselves.