Space & Science

Three Giant Asteroids Will Have Close Encounter With Earth on Christmas Day

Not one, not two but three huge asteroids are paying us a holiday visit, and are due to speed relatively near the Earth on Christmas Day. Relative to distances in the universe that is, so there is no reason to panic.

The three asteroids are named 2022 YL1, 2013 YA14 and 2022 TE14, and are estimated to measure between 124 and 278 feet, between 167 and 360 feet and between 312 and 689 feet in diameter, respectively.

Therefore, 2022 YL1 is around the same size as the wingspan of a Boeing 777, 2013 YA14 is similar in scale to an American football field, while 2022 TE14 will be around the same size as a 50-story building. We’ll call them asteroids A, B and C respectively.

asteroids near earth

Stock image of multiple asteroids approaching close to Earth. On Christmas Day, three large asteroids are forecasted to pass near our planet.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

All three asteroids orbit around the sun, occasionally passing close to the Earth. Most of the asteroids in the solar system orbit the sun in the asteroid belt, situated between Mars and Jupiter, where there are thought to be around 1.1 million.

“Asteroids are ‘bits of a planet that didn’t happen’ that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt. However, as they are relatively small, asteroids can be disturbed quite easily, so they can develop orbits that cross those of planets,” Jay Tate, the director of the U.K.’s Spaceguard Center observatory, previously told Newsweek.

Each of the asteroids will pass by Earth at a distance of 0.01959, 0.00691 and 0.02872 astronomical units, as per NASA NEO Earth Close Approaches data. One astronomical unit, which is equivalent to the distance between the Earth and the sun—93 million miles miles—meaning that asteroid A will pass by at around 1,820,000 miles away from Earth, asteroid B at 642,000 miles and asteroid C at 2,670,000 miles.

While this may sound extremely far away, in terms of the solar system, the asteroids are coming fairly closer to Earth: the moon is only around 238,900 miles away, while our nearest neighbor planet, Venus, is currently 153.6 million miles away.

Many of the asteroids that pass close to Earth are classified as near-Earth objects, and are designated as such based on how close they approach and how large they are. There are about 30,000 NEOs known to us so far, some of which are also in another category called “potentially hazardous” objects. These are defined as coming within 4.6 million miles of Earth’s orbit and also measure greater than 460 feet in diameter.

Therefore, only asteroid C falls into the potentially hazardous category.

“The potentially hazardous designation simply means over many centuries and millennia the asteroid’s orbit may evolve into one that has a chance of impacting Earth. We do not assess these long-term, many-century possibilities of impact,” Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, previously told Newsweek.

Despite these Christmas asteroids’ proximity to the Earth, the chances of them or any of the other thousands of asteroids in the solar system hitting our planet are very small.

“No known asteroid poses a significant risk of impact with Earth over the next 100 years,” states NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

Do you have a tip on a science story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about asteroids? Let us know via science@newsweek.com.

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