In the coming weeks — including this week — asteroids larger than the pyramids of Giza will pass near Earth.
2021 SM3, the asteroid passing this week, has a diameter of 525 feet; the Great Pyramid of Giza, by contrast, has a diameter of 428 feet. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, if the asteroid were to hit Earth, it has the potential to “cause local damage to the impact area.”
However, it is currently classified as a near-Earth object, which includes any celestial bodies that come within 120 million miles of Earth. 2021 SM3 will get significantly closer than this — it will be about 3.6 million miles away.
Later next month, several asteroids larger than 2021 SM3 will pass Earth as well. The largest, 2004 UE, has a diameter just shy of the length of the Empire State Building — 1246 feet. On Nov. 13, 2004 UE will be within 2.6 million miles of Earth (significantly closer than Earth’s neighboring planet Venus, which is sometimes as far away as 74.8 million miles). Even closer, however, will be 1996 VB3, which is due to pass within 2.1 million miles of Earth.
Earlier this year, one asteroid passed particularly close to Earth, making headlines and inciting some fear. However, scientists calculated the asteroid would not hit the planet for at least a century, but it would come within 20,000 miles of Earth in 2029.
This year, Asteroid 2001 FO32 made headlines as the largest asteroid to pass Earth at approximately 3,000 feet wide; it came within 1.2 million miles of Earth.