A skyscraper-sized 'potentially hazardous' asteroid

 A newly discovered, "potentially hazardous" asteroid almost the size of the world's tallest skyscraper is set to tumble past Earth just in time for Halloween, according to NASA.

The asteroid, called 2022 RM4, has an estimated diameter of between 1,083 and 2,428 feet (330 and 740 meters) — just under the height of Dubai's 2,716-foot-tall (828 m) Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It will zoom past our planet at around 52,500 mph (84,500 km/h), or roughly 68 times the speed of sound, according to NASA(opens in new tab).

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At its closest approach on Nov. 1, the asteroid will come within about 1.43 million miles (2.3 million kilometers) of Earth, around six times the average distance between Earth and the moon. By cosmic standards, this is a very slender margin.

NASA flags any space object that comes within 120 million miles (193 million km) of Earth as a "near-Earth object" and classifies any large body within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million km) of our planet as "potentially hazardous." Once flagged, these potential threats are closely watched by astronomers, who study them with radar for signs of any deviation from their predicted trajectories that could put them on a devastating collision course with Earth. 

NASA tracks the locations and orbits of roughly 28,000 asteroids, pinpointing them with the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) — an array of four telescopes able to perform a total scan of the entire night sky every 24 hours.

Since ATLAS was brought online in 2017, it has spotted more than 700 near-Earth asteroids and 66 comets. Two of the asteroids detected by ATLAS, 2019 MO and 2018 LA, actually hit Earth, the former exploding off the southern coast of Puerto Rico and the latter crash-landing near the border of Botswana and South Africa. Fortunately, those asteroids were small and didn't cause any damage.

NASA has estimated the trajectories of all the near-Earth objects beyond the end of the century. The good news is that Earth faces no known danger from an apocalyptic asteroid collision for at least the next 100 years, according to NASA(opens in new tab).