A colossal asteroid the size of nearly 99 narwhals is set to pass by the Earth on Thursday, June 15, according to NASA's asteroid tracker.
This cetacean-scaled asteroid has been given the designated 2020 DB5, as stated by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Despite its initials, it has no relation to the Aston Martin 2020 DB5, famous for being the latest model of the classic James Bond car.
Its passing comes following a few other space rocks of significant size that flew past the planet.
Just tusk me on this: How big is the asteroid coming toward Earth in 2023?
Asteroid 2020 DB5 has a truly colossal size of 850 meters. That's absolutely enormous, even for a near-Earth asteroid. Of course, bigger ones do exist, such as Ceres and 16 Psyche, but they're much farther away.
But how can we put that figure into something more easily understood? Can we use a metric of something that people are more familiar with?
Yes, or we could use narwhals.
Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea, being large beluga whale-like cetaceans famous for possessing massive tusks that jut out from their heads.
Narwhals, on average, can grow as much as 5.5 meters in length. The tusk, however, can grow to be as much as 3.1 meters. That gives the narwhals a total maximum length altogether of 8.6 meters. That's almost two ostriches in length.
In other words, asteroid 2020 DB5's diameter is almost the size of 99 narwhals, lined up tail to tusk.
What other asteroids are set to pass by soon?
Asteroid 202 DB5's flyby comes following a few others that are set to pass by the Earth.
Here are those other asteroids, each given their own metric:
- Asteroid 2022 WN4 is set to pass Earth on June 13. With a diameter of around 260 meters, it's around the size of around 295 Siberian huskies.
- Asteroid 2023 LO is also set to pass Earth on June 13. It has a diameter of around 18 meters, meaning it's around the size of almost 10 Yulias, referring to the East Mediterranean monk seal that frequented Israel's beaches and won the heart of a nation.
- Asteroid 2023 LZ is set to fly very close to the Earth on Wednesday, June 14. Its diameter is around 32 meters, which is around the size of around 14 Damascus goats, if those goats were wearing 3-inch Prada high heels.
Is an asteroid going to hit the Earth in 2023?
Narwhals are a rare sight on Earth, being confined to just the Arctic regions.
Asteroids hitting the Earth are even rarer, but they still do happen.
But asteroid 2020 DB5, however, is not one of those asteroids, being set to pass by the Earth around 4.3 million kilometers away from us. That's much farther than the Moon, which orbits the Earth at around 384,000 kilometers, but it is still close on a cosmic scale.
Asteroid 2023 LZ is actually set to pass us much closer, around 315,000 kilometers away. But thankfully, it's still far from hitting us.
Either way, asteroids already hit the Earth in 2023, specifically back in November when asteroid 2023 CX1 impacted near Normandy in France.
However, if asteroid 2020 DB5 did impact the Earth, it could theoretically take out all the narwhals – and plenty more with them – provided it hit the right area.
According to estimates from the Davidson Institute of Science, the educational arm of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, if an asteroid that massive were to impact the Earth, the result would be, at best, an entire continent devastated. At worst, it could be a worldwide catastrophe severe of nigh-apocalyptic proportions.
Do we have any way to stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth?
Mankind's quest for mastery over the Earth has extended to the stars, with scientists in the field of planetary defense working on a way to defend the Earth from asteroids.
So far, this research has borne fruit, most notably NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission, which sought to change an asteroid's orbit by punching it with a spacecraft.
Now, we have a way to stop asteroid impacts, provided we have enough of a warning.