Earth is constantly being buzzed by asteroids that venture through our neck of the cosmic woods during their travels around the sun. As they journey from deep space toward the inner solar system, these celestial bodies – also known as near-Earth objects (NEOs) – make close and perfectly safe flybys of our planet, popping by for a quick visit before heading back into the cosmic night.
On a typical day, asteroid trackers at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) issue reports for single asteroid flybys, giving ample notice of the dates and distances at which various-sized space rocks are due to approach for a close encounter with planet Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers,” points out the CNEOS website.
However, this week appears to be quite a busy one in terms of so-called near-Earth approaches by harmless asteroids. According to the CNEOS, three tiny space rocks will be zipping past our home world later today — followed by four more on April 12 and an additional five on April 13.
Thursday Asteroid Flybys
The first celestial visitor to whizz by our planet today is also the smallest of the trio. Dubbed asteroid 2019 GV5, the space rock was discovered less than a week ago and is estimated to measure between 11.4 feet and 25.9 feet in diameter. This tiny chunk of rock is expected to swoop by Earth a few minutes before noon, making a close approach to our planet at 11:53 a.m. ET.
Data from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, shows that the flyby will be a relatively close one indeed. After observing its speed and trajectory over the course of four days – starting on April 5, when the asteroid first came up on NASA’s radar – JPL scientists have calculated that 2019 GV5 will creep in within nearly 400,000 miles of Earth. That’s about 1.7 times the distance from here to the moon.
Later this afternoon, a slightly larger asteroid will be making its way towards Earth, buzzing our planet at twice the distance of its predecessor. Just like 2019 GV5, this second celestial visitor was also first spotted last week, being picked by asteroid trackers on April 2. Named 2019 GE1, the space rock is thought to be anywhere between 31.8 feet and 72.1 feet wide and will swing by for a close encounter at 5:03 p.m. ET, notes the JPL.
Hurtling through space at more than 14,500 mph, asteroid 2019 GE1 will only approach our planet from a distance of 920,700 miles away. This means that, during its close flyby of Earth, the asteroid will be nearly four times more distant than the moon.
The final close encounter of the day will be marked by the passage of asteroid 2019 GY5. Also discovered on April 2, this is the largest and the farthest of the bunch. According to the JPL, the space rock will zoom past our planet at 7:38 p.m. ET, cruising at a fantastic speed of nearly 61,000 mph.
Estimated to measure anywhere between 65.6 feet and 144.3 feet across, asteroid 2019 GY5 is following an orbital trajectory that will bring it just within a little over 1.4 million miles of planet Earth. That’s nearly six times the distance to the moon.
More Asteroids To Come
Today’s asteroid close encounters will be followed by several more flybys over the next couple of days. On Friday, four asteroids will dart past our planet, the largest of which is estimated to be around 460 feet wide. On Saturday, Earth will be buzzed by five other space rocks, none bigger than 213 feet in diameter.
With a couple of exceptions, all of these upcoming asteroid flybys will be significantly more distant than today’s close encounters. Over the next few months, Earth will be visited by an additional 21 asteroids, with flyby dates spanning from April 18 to June 6.