A 320-Foot Asteroid Just Shot Past Earth On Its Closest-Ever Approach To Our Planet

The space rock will return later this summer for another close encounter with planet Earth.

Near-Earth asteroid approaching our planet.
470906 / Pixabay

The space rock will return later this summer for another close encounter with planet Earth.

An asteroid discovered merely a week ago paid Earth a close visit on Saturday morning. Dubbed asteroid 2019 FV, the celestial visitor skimmed past our planet just in time for morning coffee, performing a close flyby of Earth at 9:33 a.m. ET today.

During the moment of its closest approach, the space rock hurtled past our planet at a breakneck speed of 17,246 mph. This means that, during its close encounter with Earth, asteroid 2019 FV was cruising through space at more than 22 times the speed of sound.

According to asteroid trackers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the space rock missed Earth by 3.5 million miles. Barreling through the cosmos on its orbital path around the sun – one that sometimes brings it through our corner of the solar system – asteroid 2019 FV only came within 0.0384 astronomical units (AU) of Earth.

As The Inquisitr previously reported, one AU represents the average distance between the Earth and the sun and is equivalent to roughly 93 million miles. Judging by these numbers, asteroid 2019 FV cut this distance to just 3.57 million miles as it sped past our planet earlier this morning. To get a better idea of how close the space rock snuggled to our planet, note that at its closest point to Earth, asteroid 2019 FV was nearly 15 times more distant than the moon.

Just like many of the celestial bodies that find their way to our corner of space, asteroid 2019 FV is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO). As NASA explains, NEOs are comets and asteroids circling the sun on an orbit that allows them to “enter the Earth’s neighborhood” and to occasionally approach our planet.

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers,” the space agency points out.

Near-Earth asteroids approaching our planet.
  NASA

First spotted on March 26, asteroid 2019 FV has been attentively monitored by JPL specialists for the past week. After keeping tabs on the space rock via a total of 38 observations, the JPL team was able to gauge its size, velocity, and proximity to Earth.

Per a size estimate released by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), 2019 FV is believed to measure somewhere between 144.4 feet and 324.8 feet in diameter. While it may not be a particularly large rock – it pales in comparison to the 1,115-foot-wide behemoth that skimmed past Earth last week, as reported by The Inquisitr at the time – 2019 FV is still at least 2.2 times bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere over Russia in 2013. Although relatively small – it only measured 66 feet across – the bolide damaged more than 7,200 buildings and injured nearly 1,500 people.

Today’s trip through our corner of space was not the first for asteroid 2019 FV, nor will it be the last. Its previous flyby occurred six years ago. On March 26, 2013, the space rock swung by our planet, coming in within 7.1 million miles of the planet’s surface – or twice as far as today’s flyby.

The asteroid will be back for another visit later this year. JPL data shows that 2019 FV will double back on August 22, buzzing Earth about a half an hour before midnight. However, its upcoming flyby of Earth will only carry it as close as 24.2 million miles from our planet.

After that, 2019 FV will return three more times — in the years 2023, 2061, and 2136. Yet, none of these visits will bring it closer than 22.1 million miles of Earth. In fact, in 2023 and 2136, the asteroid will only approach within 40.5 million miles and 41.3 million miles of our planet, respectively.

This makes today’s visit the closest of all of the asteroid’s past and future flybys, as calculated by the JPL.