Asteroid almost as big as Mount Everest to pass Earth next month, NASA says

A gigantic asteroid almost as large as Mount Everest is zooming toward Earth next month, but NASA says not to worry — it’s not expected to collide with our planet.

The space rock is called 52768 (1998 IR2) and was first seen 22 years ago. According to the space agency, early in the morning on Wednesday, April 29, it will pass within 3,908,791 miles of Earth, moving at 19,461 miles per hour.

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“[The asteroid’s discovery comes] on the heels of last month’s installation of new state-of-the-art computing and data analysis hardware that speeds our search for near-Earth objects,” said NEAT Project Manager Steven Pravdo of JPL in a statement at the time of the asteroid’s discovery. “This shows that our efforts to find near-Earth objects are paying off.”

An illustration shows a rocket approaching an asteroid that's drifted too close to Earth. A scout probe orbits nearby.

An illustration shows a rocket approaching an asteroid that’s drifted too close to Earth. A scout probe orbits nearby. (Christine Daniloff, MIT)

Although the asteroid, which is between 1 and 2.5 miles wide, is classified as potentially hazardous because of how close it will be to Earth’s orbit, NASA scientists have not put it on the agency’s list of potential future impact events.

“Our goal is to discover and track all the potentially dangerous asteroids and comets long before they are likely to approach Earth,” said NEAT Principal Investigator Eleanor Helin.