Near-Earth Asteroid Nicknamed "The Beast" Will Fly By Earth Sunday

By Allie Goolrick
Published: June 7, 2014

An asteroid so big that astronomers have dubbed it "The Beast" will get perilously close to Earth this weekend, although it poses no chance of actually hitting the planet, NASA reports.

The mammoth asteroid 2014 HQ124, which is as big as a football stadium, will zoom by Earth on June 8 around 1:56 a.m., according to The Beast will barrel past Earth traveling up to 31,000 mph, but at a safe distance of three lunar distances away.

(MORE: Ancient Planet Found on the Moon!)

Despite the fact that there is no immediate risk to Earth, the asteroid's massive size -- about 1,100 feet across -- is enough to worry astronomers.

"HQ124 is at least 10 times bigger, and possibly 20 times, than the asteroid that injured a thousand people last year in Chelyabinsk, Siberia," Bob Berman of the online Slooh community observatory said in a statement. The meteor that blasted glass out of windows and rattled entire cities was only about 55-feet wide.

Even more disturbing is that the massive space rock that'll make a near-earth approach this weekend wasn't spotted by NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer until April 23, less than two months ago.

Discovery News reports that more than 90 percent of dangerous near-Earth asteroids have already been discovered.  According to National Geographic, only 30 percent of the smaller (less than 500-foot) space rocks have been spotted. While smaller asteroids may not destroy the planet, they can damage or even destroy entire cities, as evidenced by the 2013 Russian asteroid strike.

An asteroid the size of the Beast would devastate the planet if it collided with Earth.

“What’s disconcerting is that a rocky/metallic body this large, and coming so very close, should have only first been discovered this soon before its nearest approach," Berman said. "If it were impact us, the energy released would be measured not in kilotons like the atomic bombs that ended World War II, but in H-bomb type megatons."

Still, to put it into perspective, the Beast isn't as big as asteroids get: the space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was estimated to be a whopping 6 miles across.

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NASA astronaut Don Pettit captured stunning star trails using a long-exposure technique while on the International Space Station in 2012. (NASA/Don Pettit)

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