A 390-Foot Asteroid Will Dart Past Earth Next Week On Its Closest Approach In 40 Years

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Next week, Earth is in for a close encounter with a 390-foot-wide space rock. On Monday, asteroid 2019 CL2 will swing by for what astronomers call an “Earth close approach,” coming in within 2.4 million miles of our planet.

NASA asteroid trackers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, have pinpointed the moment of the space rock’s close approach to the afternoon hours of March 18. According to data released yesterday by the JPL, asteroid 2019 CL2 will skim past Earth at 1:33 p.m. ET on Monday.

During its close flyby of Earth, the asteroid will be hurtling toward our planet at breakneck speeds of more than 16,800 mph. This means that 2019 CL2 will be barreling through space at nearly 22 times the speed of sound.

However, there’s no cause for concern as next week’s close encounter will be a perfectly safe one. The JPL data shows that asteroid 2019 CL2 will miss Earth by more than 2.42 million miles, creeping in at a little over 10 times the distance between our planet and the moon.

As its name suggests, asteroid 2019 CL2 was discovered in the few months since the beginning of 2019. The space rock was first spotted on February 5 and has been on NASA’s radar for the past 36 days. After carefully monitoring its orbit and distance from our planet, JPL specialists were also able to glean insight on the asteroid’s cruising speed and size.

NASA’s estimates indicate that asteroid 2019 CL2 measures somewhere between 183.7 feet and 393.7 feet in diameter. This makes it a rather sizeable space rock. However, 2019 CL2 pales in comparison to the 750-foot-wide asteroid that will buzz Earth a couple of days later, on March 20, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.

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Even so, asteroid 2019 CL2 is still a pretty formidable space rock, as noted by The Express.

“An asteroid at the upper end of this estimate is approximately 60 times as long as a Queen-Size bed and 11 times longer than a London double-decker bus. [..] Towards the lower end of NASA’s size estimate, the colossal space rock is still about 6.5 times the length of a double-decker bus.”

Next week’s close encounter is not the first time that Earth has been visited by asteroid 2019 CL2 — nor will it be the last. The space rock has been coming around our corner of the solar system for six decades and will continue to pop by for occasional flybys for at least another 35 years.

JPL has released a list of all of the asteroid’s close flyby dates, encompassing a period of a century between 1959 and 2054. Of all the previous encounters listed by the JPL, the closest one occurred 38 years ago on July 10 of 1981, when the asteroid passed within 8.2 million miles of Earth. This makes next week’s flyby the closest one yet.

The last time that asteroid 2019 CL2 swung by for a close visit was on July 22, 2011. At the time, the space rock only approached within 24.5 million miles of Earth. The asteroid will return later this year, performing another close flyby on August 7. Its next visit will bring it within a distance of 35.8 million miles from our planet, a lot farther away than its upcoming close encounter with Earth.