A “potentially hazardous” asteroid is going to have a close shave with Earth later this month. Fortunately, we won’t require the help of Bruce Willis and an Aerosmith power ballad to save us all just yet, as the giant space rock is expected to pass safely by.
The 2014 JO25 asteroid is approximately 1.4 kilometers (0.8 miles) wide and, according to NASA, is expected to make its closest approach to Earth on April 19. On this date, the hurtling space object will be approximately 4.6 lunar distances (1.7 million kilometers) from us. It was originally discovered by astronomers in May 2014 at the Mount Lemmon Survey observatory in the Santa Catalina Mountains of Tucson, Arizona.
This is the largest asteroid to fly this close since the 4179 Toutatis sailed past Earth at 4 lunar distances in September 2004.
The asteroid is classified as a "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid" by the Minor Planet Center. NASA explains this criterion is “based on parameters that measure the asteroid's potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.” They consider an asteroid less than about 150 meters (500 feet) across not to be hazardous. Essentially, it’s a weigh-up between how close the flyby is and how damaging a collision with Earth could be based on its size.
Ron Baalke from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted the GIF below last year showing how close 2014 JO25’s orbit will come to Earth. That 4.6 lunar distance might sound far, but in the grand scale of the Solar System, it's a whisker away.