A 65.5-Foot Asteroid As Large As The Famous Chelyabinsk Meteor Darted Past Earth At Nearly 39,000 MPH

Родион Журавлёв Pixabay

On Saturday, two different asteroids wandered through our corner of the solar system, buzzing planet Earth from a close, but perfectly safe, distance. One of today’s celestial visitors was asteroid 2019 FV, which managed to approach within 3.5 million miles of Earth, or nearly 15 times the distance to the moon.

Per a previous report from The Inquisitr, 2019 FV skimmed past the planet at 9:33 a.m. ET. Several hours before that, Earth was visited by another space rock – the very recently discovered asteroid 2019 GU1, which managed to creep in a lot closer to our home world.

This particular space rock was first picked up by asteroid tracking systems a mere two days ago, coming up on NASA’s radar – so to speak – on April 4. After monitoring its trajectory over the course of 15 observations, NASA asteroid trackers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, announced yesterday that 2019 GU1 would be coming in for a so-called “close Earth approach” on April 6.

The space rock whizzed past our planet just a few short minutes after midnight, performing a swift flyby of Earth at 12:03 a.m. on Saturday morning. As it hurtled through the cosmos on its orbital path around the sun, asteroid 2019 GU1 hit a cruising speed of a little under 39,000 mph during the moment of its closest approach to Earth.

That’s more than 50 times the speed of sound.

Near-Earth asteroid approaching our planet.
Near-Earth asteroid approaching our planet.Featured image credit: urikyo33 Pixabay

Given its orbit and proximity to Earth, the space rock classifies as a near-Earth object, or NEO. These objects are celestial bodies, such as 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,” explains NASA.

While a large number of NEOs only pass within millions of miles of our planet, as was the case of today’s other celestial visitor, asteroid 2019 FV, some manage to slip in a lot closer to home. One prime example is 2019 GU1, which safely approached Earth at less than two times the distance to the moon.

Today’s flyby brought the asteroid within 0.0042 astronomical units (AU) of planet Earth. Given that one AU represents the average distance between our planet and the sun and is equivalent to roughly 93 million miles, this means that asteroid 2019 GU1 buzzed Earth from 390,600 miles away. That’s exactly 1.6 times the lunar distance.

According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the space rock is estimated to measure somewhere between of 29.5 feet and 65.5 feet across. At the upper end of that limit, asteroid 2019 GU1 would be in the exact size range as the famous Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over the skies of Russia in the morning of February 15, 2013.

“The house-sized asteroid entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk at over 11 miles per second [39,600 mph] and blew apart 14 miles above the ground. The explosion released the energy equivalent of around 440,000 tons of TNT and generated a shock wave that blew out windows over 200 square miles,” notes NASA.

[video src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Chelyabinsk_meteor_security_camera_footage%2C_Yekaterinburg.webm" /]

A few hours after asteroid 2019 GU1 swung past Earth on Saturday, the space rock made a flyby of the moon. The asteroid passed by Earth’s natural satellite at 5:16 a.m. ET, maintaining roughly the same cruising speed and distance to the Earth-moon system.

The last time that the asteroid paid a visit to our planet was two years ago, on October 3, 2017. At the time, 2019 GU1 buzzed Earth from much farther away, approaching our planet from a distance of 12.5 million miles. The asteroid will not be making a return trip to Earth’s vicinity in the foreseeable future.