Andrea Danti/Shutterstock.com

Earthquakes! Buildings knocked over! Wrangler jeans spontaneously combusting! What will (not) happen in your city?

At 4:59 EDT today, the speeding Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest approach to earth. Astronomers the planet over are craning their necks to get a look at this thing, because it's a real brute – most asteroids are less than a kilometer wide, but QE2 measures 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles). That makes it "one of the big ones," according to NASA, that would "cause global catastrophe" if it smashed into Earth.

Look, the space agency's even made a fun diagram to illustrate its unusually corpulent body, which stretches on for more than the length of nine cruise ships. Not pictured is its moon (a small percentage of asteroids have one or more moons):

NASA

And here's a radar image of it approaching Earth:

NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

But – Spoiler Alert – this guy will not be obliterating civilizations today. At its nearest, it will still be about 3.6 million miles away, or 15 times the distance from us to the moon. That means we're free to go about our Friday business, which, if you happen to work in the media, can mean making nail-biting "What if?" stories about the whopping death and destruction a big asteroid strike would cause.

Please welcome back our friend, Impact Calculator from the NASA funded site Killer Asteroids. Last we met, the grim prognosticator was ginning up all kinds of fiery mayhem that could've resulted from (but not really) February's close pass with Asteroid 2012 DA14. Plotting ground-rippling megathumps from today's space boulder is even more fun because of the extreme wreckage it would cause. As the calculator optimistically notes: "Impacts like this occur every two million years or so. The damage would cover a medium-sized state, but it still wouldn't lead to global extinctions."

Here are a few scenarios depicting an asteroid strike's rings of woe. Remember, blue is "first-degree burns," green is "clothing ignites,"  pale yellow is "steel buildings knocked over" and egg-yolk yellow is "7.0 earthquake." Here's New York City:

Los Angeles:

Denver, Colorado:

London:

Tokyo:

Sydney:

Istanbul:

While you won't see the asteroid barreling down on you out of the bright blue skies today, you will be able to spot it during the first week of June when it turns a bright side toward Earth. Just get a telescope and look in these locations marked by NASA:

Top image: Andrea Danti / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    A Horrifying Glimpse Into Your Dystopian Future Transit Commute

    A comic artist’s take on what the future of transportation might really feel like.

  2. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why Asking for Bike Lanes Isn't Smart

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  3. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  4. Uber Eats worker
    Life

    The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

    As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.

  5. Two men look over city plans at a desk in an office.
    Equity

    The Doomed 1970s Plan to Desegregate New York’s Suburbs

    Ed Logue was a powerful agent of urban renewal in New Haven, Boston, and New York City. But his plan to build low-income housing in suburbia came to nought.

×