Asteroid the size of 3,500 Big Mac hamburgers to pass Earth - NASA

Asteroid 2023 HO6 is passing Earth right after the Fourth of July. In honor of this, we are using a quintessential American food, the McDonald's Big Mac hamburger, as our metric of choice.

 An asteroid is seen heading toward Earth in this illustrative image (photo credit: PIXABAY)
An asteroid is seen heading toward Earth in this illustrative image
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

An asteroid the size of almost 3,500 McDonald's Big Mac hamburgers is set to pass by the Earth on Wednesday, July 5, just a day after the Fourth of July, according to NASA's asteroid tracker.

The asteroid in question has been designated 2023 HO6, meaning it was discovered this year, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). 

The asteroid's passing is set to pass following the Fourth of July, when the United States celebrates its independence. 

United States of Asteroid: How big is the asteroid coming towards Earth in 2023?

According to NASA, asteroid 2023 HO6 has a diameter of as much as 310 meters. 

The metric system is utilized by almost all countries over the world, but it isn't utilized by the United States, which still relies on the imperial system. But in order to not have to use that, while also not using the metric system, here is a far more ubiquitous system of measurement to use for this asteroid: Big Macs.

A McDonald's Big Mac burger. (credit: COURTESY MCDONALDS)
A McDonald's Big Mac burger. (credit: COURTESY MCDONALDS)

Hamburgers are the quintessential American food, especially on the Fourth of July, and McDonald's Big Macs are arguably the most famous of all burgers.

According to measurements done by Buzzfeed, an American Big Mac hamburger is roughly 3.5 inches in diameter or 8.89 centimeters. To put that into perspective, that means asteroid 2023 HO6 is as much as around 3,500 McDonald's Big Mac hamburgers. 

Whether that metric would change if the Big Mac didn't have pickles is currently unknown and may require further investigation.

Asteroid 2023 HO6 is also speeding towards Earth at around 7.77 kilometers per second, or 27,972 kilometers per hour – that's over 22.6 times the speed of sound.

While Big Macs lack any discernable velocity due to being immobile hamburgers, the same cannot be said for another American Independence Day staple: Fireworks. 

Firework explosions, like all explosions, have velocity, which measures the speed of the explosion itself. According to research shared by the American popular science TV program Nova, fireworks are considered low explosives, compared to high explosives like dynamite. This means that fireworks have a detonation velocity of under 100 yards per second. Putting that in the actual metric system, that's around 329 kilometers per hour. 

In other words, asteroid 2023 HO6 is almost 85 times faster than the detonation velocity of a firework.

With liberty and asteroids for all: Is an asteroid going to hit the Earth in 2023?

Asteroid 2023 HO6 is quite large, but it is at no risk of hitting the Earth. 

According to NASA's calculations, this asteroid is going to cruise on past us at a distance of a little over 2 million kilometers. Considering the Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of around 384,000 kilometers, this isn't any cause for concern. 

And good thing, too, because an impact event from an asteroid this size would ruin any celebration – because it would probably kill everyone.

According to estimates by experts from Israel's Davidson Institute of Science, the educational arm of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, an asteroid this big could destroy an entire continent if it impacted the Earth.

But smaller ones have already hit the Earth this year, such as asteroid 2023 CX1 back in February, which impacted, like the US army in World War II, near Normandy, France, and that didn't result in any damages. 

Land of the free, home of the asteroid? Do we have any way to stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth?

Just as the Fourth of July is a day to celebrate freedom, so too the very next day can humanity celebrate their potential freedom from any danger of an asteroid impact.

Scientists working in the field of planetary defense have been hard at work trying to find methods of protecting the Earth from an asteroid impact. So far, one method seems the most promising: Kinetic deflection. This was already tested as part of NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission, which successfully punched an asteroid, altering its orbit. 

So now you can grill burgers in your backyard with ease, knowing you are likely safe from asteroid impacts.