Just one day after a 210-foot-wide asteroid made a close flyby of Earth, another space rock wandered through our celestial neighborhood. Asteroid 2019 AV2 just made a close – and completely safe – sweep past our planet, hurtling through space at nearly 30,000 miles per hour.
Unlike yesterday’s visitor – asteroid 2019 BJ1, which the Inquisitr reported skimmed past us at 3.4 times the distance between the Earth and the moon – asteroid 2019 AV2 buzzed our planet from farther away. However, this space rock was more than five times larger and would have posed a bigger threat had it been cruising on a potentially dangerous orbit.
First discovered less than a month ago, asteroid 2019 BJ1 was tracked by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which yesterday released data on its size, speed, and distance from our planet. The JPL also made public their calculations regarding the asteroid’s orbital path, showing that the space rock had swung by Earth before and that it will make 13 more flybys of our planet within the next century and a half.
According to the JPL, the asteroid is estimated to measure between 492 feet and 1,115.5 feet in diameter. At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid would be twice as large as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, noted the Express.
NASA asteroid tracker: 1,100FT monster asteroid is headed on Earth approach TOMORROW https://t.co/y8yKrd2Pk5
— Lucky Ambago (@PurokOtso) February 1, 2019
“An asteroid this big is about 40 times longer than a London double-decker bus and is 150 times bigger than a Queen-Size bed. Compared to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the asteroid would appear more than twice as tall — by 203 feet.”
Asteroid 2019 AV2 was first spotted on January 3 by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System at Haleakala (ATLAS-HKO). The space rock made its closest approach to Earth at 3:32 p.m. EST today, whizzing by at 13.0162 km/s or 29,116 mph.
At its closest, the asteroid approached the Earth at a distance of 0.045 astronomical units (AU). Given that one AU represents the average distance between Earth and the sun and is equivalent to about 93 million miles, this means that asteroid 2019 AV2 missed our planet by about 4 million miles.
This still qualifies the space rock as a near-Earth object (NEO). As previously reported by the Inquisitr, NEOs are known to orbit anywhere within 1.3 AU from the sun. At the same time, the 0.045 AU distance translates into 17.49 lunar distances (LD) — or 17.49 times the distance from Earth to the moon.
The asteroid was recently imaged by the Northolt Branch Observatories (NBO) in London, U.K. On Tuesday, NBO representatives took to social media to share their footage of the space rock, observed at a magnitude of +17.2 and slowly fading.
Apollo-type PHA 2019 AV2. Diameter 170-380m. First observed at @fallingstarIfA on 3rd Jan. Close approach Feb 1st. Distance 0.045au.#SpotTheAsteroid@AsteroidDay @NEOShieldTeam @CloseApproaches @AsteroidTracker @QHYCCD @AstronomyFM #QHY42 pic.twitter.com/FXAbZp3rF6
— Northolt Branch Obs (@NBObservatories) January 29, 2019
According to a post shared on the NBO Facebook page, shortly after discovering the asteroid, astronomers calculated that the object “had a very small (1 in 1 billion) chance to hit the Earth in the year 2071.” However, the risk was quickly eliminated.
“It is now known that 2019 AV2 poses no risk to Earth for at least the next 100 years.”
Asteroid 2019 AV2 has visited our planet 12 times since 1908. The last time the space rock came whizzing through this part of the solar system was on June 3, 2015, when it darted past the Earth at a much greater distance than it did today — 0.43 AU or 167.7 times the distance to the moon. That’s nearly 10 times farther away than today’s close encounter.
In fact, today’s flyby was the closest that 2019 AV2 has ever gotten to Earth in the past 111 years. Over the next century and a half, the asteroid will circle back to our planet 13 more times. However, we’ll have to wait more than two decades before 2019 AV2 comes around for another visit.
Its next flyby was calculated for June 2, 2042. After that, asteroid 2019 AV2 will buzz our planet again on January 21, 2046, and on May 2, 2069. Of all the close flybys due to occur between now and the year 2176, today’s close encounter is the closest one, as shown by the JPL data.