Two asteroids are set to skim past the Earth in the first weekend of September, according to NASA's asteroid tracker.
Which asteroid is coming towards Earth?
The two asteroids in question have been designated 2022 QN5 and 2022 QO31. Both asteroids are all relatively small, with estimated sizes ranging from 16 meters at minimum to 79 meters at maximum.
How big is the asteroid coming towards Earth in 2022?
The asteroids are not very big, and they both range in size.
The first one, asteroid 2022 QN5, set to pass by Earth on September 2, has a width ranging between 16 meters and 36 meters, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
For context, 36 meters is around 2.5 times the size of a semitrailer.
Asteroid 2022 QN5 is also hurtling towards Earth's orbit at a pretty fast pace, clocking in at around 13.54 kilometers per second, according to NASA. That's equal to 48,744 kilometers per hour or to almost 40 times the speed of sound.
The next asteroid, 2022 QO31, should pass the Earth on Saturday, September 3. This asteroid is considerably larger and has a diameter estimated to range between 36 meters and 79 meters.
To put that in perspective, 79 meters is around half the size of the Washington Monument in the US capital.
In terms of speed, NASA determined that asteroid 2022 QO31 is flying in at a velocity of around 8.46 kilometers per second, or 30,456 kilometers per hour. That's almost 25 times the speed of sound.
Will an asteroid hit Earth in 2022?
If an asteroid does hit the Earth in 2022, it won't be either of these and even if one of these two small asteroids did impact, it wouldn't be too bad.
Both asteroids are traveling at a considerable distance from the Earth. Asteroid 2022 QN5 is the closest of the two, and admittedly it is coming in closer than most others. According to NASA's estimates, asteroid 2022 QN5 could pass by the Earth at a distance of under 1 million kilometers.
That seems like a close call - and on a cosmic scale, it is. However, keep in mind that the Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of around 384,000 kilometers, so this is still considerably farther away.
In other words, the asteroids are relatively close, but only on a cosmic scale - and they still won't hit us.
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.
An even larger asteroid that's over 300 meters wide – like the Apophis asteroid – could destroy an entire continent. An asteroid over a kilometer in width – like asteroid 138971 (2001 CB21), which flew past the Earth in early March 2022 – could trigger a worldwide cataclysm.
But at their sizes, these three asteroids will likely not cause much damage if it impacts. It will likely cause a large and loud explosion upon atmospheric entry, but any actual damage would be minimal, at best.
But will an asteroid ever impact the Earth in 2022? The answer is certainly yes. Or rather, yes, it already happened.
In mid-March 2022, the small asteroid 2022 EB5, which was around half the size of a giraffe, managed to hit the Earth - though it caused no damage.
When is the next asteroid predicted to hit the Earth?
Not for a long time, at the very least. NASA has declared the Earth free of risk of any catastrophic asteroid impacts for the next century.
What is the next asteroid to hit Earth?
We don't know for sure, but there are some candidates.
Currently, one of the most dangerous asteroids for Earth is the asteroid Bennu, an enormous 500-meter-wide asteroid. If this asteroid impacted the Earth, the result would be catastrophic - but as far as NASA is aware, this won't be for a long time, if ever.
Do we have any way to stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth?
Not yet, but scientists working on it.
The field of planetary defense is specifically organized to do things like that, and scientists at NASA and across the world are hard at work trying to keep the Earth safe.
Currently, the most promising of these efforts is NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which will see a small specially-designed spacecraft slam into an asteroid to see if it can possibly alter its orbit ever so slightly. But time will tell if this will prove effective.
The DART Mission is set to reach its target, the asteroid Dimorphous, on September 26.