artist picture asteroid earth
© NASA
An artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth.
NASA has detected an asteroid almost as big as the Empire State Building that's on a near-collision course with Earth. The agency's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has classified the massive space rock as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

The approaching asteroid has been identified by CNEOS as 2019 GT3. According to the agency's database, this asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of 30,500 miles per hour. It is estimated to have a diameter of 1,247 feet.

Due to its massive size, the asteroid will not break up or explode in mid-air if it enters Earth's atmosphere. Instead, it will hit the ground and create a massive crater about 3 miles wide.

The resulting explosion from the asteroid's impact would produce enough energy to completely level a small city.

Fortunately, 2019 GT3 is not in danger of hitting Earth during its upcoming approach. CNEOS predicted that the asteroid will enter Earth's neighborhood on Sept. 6 at 12:21 am EDT. During this time, the asteroid will be about 0.04996 astronomical unit or roughly 4.6 million miles from the planet's center.

According to CNEOS, 2019 GT3 belongs to the Apollo family of asteroids. Like other Apollo asteroids, 2019 GT3 has a very wide orbit that takes it around the Earth and the Sun. From time to time, the asteroid's orbit intersects with that of Earth as it goes around the giant star.

Since 2019 GT3 oftentimes intersects and approaches Earth at dangerously close distances, it has been labeled by CNEOS as a potentially hazardous asteroid.

"Potentially hazardous asteroids are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth," CNEOS said in a statement.

"Specifically, all asteroids with a minimum orbit intersection distance of 0.05 [astronomical units] or less and an absolute magnitude of 22.0 or less are considered PHAs," the agency added.

2019 G3 was first observed on April 3. After this week's approach, the asteroid is not expected to appear in Earth's vicinity until June 20, 2030. During this time, the asteroid will approach the planet from a distance of 0.09615 astronomical units or about 8.9 million miles away.