The asteroid, called 2002 AJ129, will make its closest approach to Earth at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT), and will be about 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers) from our planet at its closest point, NASA officials said. It's traveling at a breathtaking speed of about 76,000 mph (122,310 km/h), faster than most near-Earth asteroids, they added.
But while asteroid 2002 AJ129 is classified as "potentially hazardous" by NASA, at no point now or during the next century does it pose an impact threat to Earth, NASA officials said. Asteroids are classified potentially hazardous if they are larger than 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter and are in orbits that approach within 4.65 million miles (7.48 million km) of Earth. [In Images: Potentially Dangerous Asteroids Tracked by NASA]
"We have been tracking this asteroid for over 14 years and know its orbit very accurately," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said in the statement. "Our calculations indicate that asteroid 2002 AJ129 has no chance — zero — of colliding with Earth on Feb. 4 or any time over the next 100 years."
The space rock will be no closer than about 10 times the distance between the Earth and moon. (The average distance between the Earth and moon is about 238,855 miles, or about 384,400 km.)
Asteroid 2002 AJ129 is a mid-size asteroid that is somewhere between 0.3 miles and 0.75 miles (0.5 to 1.2 kilometers) across. It was discovered on Jan. 15, 2002 by astronomers with a then-NASA-sponsored Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project at the Maui Space Surveillance Site on Haleakala, Hawaii.
The asteroid's unusually fast speed was likely caused by a its orbit, which brings 2002 AJ129 extremely close to the sun, whipping around the star at a range of 11 million miles (18 million km), NASA officials said.
You can see live views of asteroid 2002 AJ129 today here at the Virtual Telescope Project website here at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT).