|An animation of an asteroid flying through the solar system. Image courtesy of NASA|
Astronomical autumn kicks off on Wednesday afternoon, and the start of the new season will coincide with an asteroid larger than the Statue of Liberty swinging past the Earth.
The asteroid, named 2021 NY1, is classified as a Near-Earth Object and is roughly 580 feet long, making it more than two times taller than Lady Liberty standing in New York Harbor and more than three times taller than Niagara Falls.
While a rock this size could be a problem if it were to hit the Earth, NASA says that it is not on a collision course with the planet. This is also the closest it is projected to pass by Earth through at least the year 2193.
Just a few hours before the equinox arrives, the asteroid is set to harmlessly pass the planet around Wednesday morning shortly before 11 a.m. EDT, according to TheSkyLive, but close is a relative term.
At its closest approach, it will be around 930,000 miles away from the Earth, which is almost four times farther away than the moon. It is flying through the solar system much faster than a speeding bullet at around 6 miles per second.
Despite its size and proximity to the planet, it will not be visible to many skywatchers without the help of a high-powered telescope.
The passing of this asteroid coincidentally occurs on the September equinox.
At precisely 3:21 p.m. EDT, summer will transition to autumn in the Northern Hemisphere while the Southern Hemisphere switches from winter to spring.
This is different from meteorological autumn, which started on Sept. 1.