A 269-foot asteroid is hurtling through space on its way to our neck of the woods and will dash by for a short — and perfectly safe — visit tomorrow morning, the Express is reporting.
The space rock was only discovered nine days ago and has been given the name 2019 AR2. Classified as a Near-Earth Object, the asteroid will be making what astronomers refer to as an "Earth Close Approach," coming within 2 million miles from our planet.
"Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth's neighborhood," explained NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
As the NEO Shield points out, these objects orbit within 1.3 astronomical units (or 120.8 million miles) from the sun. One astronomical unit (AU) represents the average distance between Earth and the sun and is equivalent to 93 million miles.
Based on the calculated orbit of asteroid 2019 AR2, the space rock will come within 0.01954 AU from our planet or 1.8 million miles. That's nearly eight times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
First spotted on January 3, the space rock was imaged by the Northolt Branch Observatories in the U.K. five days later, the observatory announced in a recent tweet.The asteroid is estimated to measure between 121.4 feet and 269 feet in diameter. Although its size may be less impressive than that of other, more famous asteroids that have been making headlines in the past few weeks — the 1,650-foot Bennu and the 3,000-foot Ryugu asteroids — 2019 AR2 is actually quite large.
"An asteroid this big is about 10 times longer than a red London double-decker bus and is 1.45 times taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa," notes the Express.Asteroid 2019 AR2 will make its closest pass at 9:28 a.m. on Sunday, darting past Earth at breakneck speeds of 10,780 mph. While that certainly is very fast, this is about half as slow as the much smaller AD16 asteroid that zoomed past our planet on January 4, per a previous report from the Inquisitr.
Tomorrow's flyby will be neither the first nor the last time that Earth is buzzed by asteroid 2019 AR2. According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the space rock has visited our planet in the past and is due to return in seven years. The space rock's next close approach to Earth will come on January 30, 2026. After that, the asteroid will pop round again on February 15, 2033.
The JPL offers an entire list of dates for the asteroid's future close encounters with planet Earth, mapping out its behavior over the next 154 years. All in all, asteroid 2019 AR2 will swing by Earth 20 times between now and February 28, 2173.
Nevertheless, tomorrow's encounter will be the closest of all these flybys — and the closest on the entire JPL list of 2019 AR2 close approaches, which tracks the asteroid's flybys of Earth all the way back to 1929.