While it’s certainly not uncommon for wandering asteroids to find their way toward our corner of space, the past few days have been unusually hectic in terms of close asteroid encounters. Our cosmic neighborhood has seen a lot of traffic from passing space rocks that popped by for a short – and completely safe – visit on their way around the sun.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, three of these celestial wayfarers made their way through our part of the solar system on Thursday, with one of them creeping in as close as 400,000 miles of Earth. On Friday, four other space rocks – the biggest of which measured up to 460 feet in diameter – swung by for a visit early in the morning. While greater in number, the asteroids only managed to get as close as 1.2 million miles from the planet’s surface, per another report from The Inquisitr.
The weekend brings yet another set of close celestial encounters, with no less than five asteroid flybys announced for today. While most of them have already occurred at the time of writing, one is still waiting to happen later in the afternoon, as shown by NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
According to a series of reports issued by asteroids trackers at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, none of the celestial visitors announced for today are particularly hefty. In fact, all of the five asteroids traipsing through our neck of the celestial woods on April 13 are under 220 feet wide.
The space rocks were all recently discovered, being first spotted either at the end of March or earlier this month, and are classified as near-Earth objects (NEOs) — 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 CNEOS points out.
The first asteroid to scrape past Earth in the early hours of Saturday morning was a space rock dubbed 2019 GN. The asteroid sped past our planet at 2:08 a.m. UTC (10:08 p.m. ET on Friday), hurtling through space at more than 26,500 mph. Data released earlier today by the JPL revealed that asteroid 2019 GN was the smallest and closest of the bunch. Estimated to measure between 32.4 feet and 72.1 feet in diameter, the space rock managed to slide within 409,200 miles of Earth – or 1.71 times the distance to the moon.
While asteroid 2019 GN is a frequent visitor to our corner of space, the last time it popped by for a brief rendezvous was a decade ago, on September 28, 2009. However, its previous flyby of Earth was a lot less spectacular, as the space rock only managed to approach within 34.6 million miles of our planet. The asteroid will not return for another 21 years, when it will buzz Earth from a distance of 11.5 million miles on April 4, 2040.
The second celestial visitor to dart past Earth on Saturday was asteroid 2019 GO4. According to the JPL, the space rock whizzed past our planet at a formidable speed of more than 52,600 mph, approaching Earth bright and early in the morning at 4:07 a.m. ET.
Slightly larger than its predecessor, asteroid 2019 GO4 is thought to measure between 75.4 feet and 170.6 feet across. The space rock flew by our planet from a lot farther away, passing within 1.19 million miles of Earth. That’s a little over five times the distance between Earth and the moon. The asteroid will not be coming back for the foreseeable future.
Several hours after the flyby of asteroid 2019 GO4, two other space rocks came waltzing through our corner of the solar system. Known as 2019 FO1 and 2019 FH1, the asteroids passed by Earth within minutes of each other, approaching our planet at 10:52 a.m. ET and 11:03 a.m. ET, respectively.
As the JPL points out, asteroid 2019 FO1 was following an orbital trajectory that brought in within 3.4 million miles of Earth – or 14.32 times the lunar distance. The space rock is believed to be between 68.8 feet and 154.1 feet wide.
Meanwhile, asteroid 2019 FH1 buzzed Earth from even further away. The space rock – which is within the exact same size range as asteroid 2019 GO4, our 4 a.m. celestial visitor – only came within 4.27 million miles of our planet, as noted by the JPL. That’s nearly 18 times the distance to the moon. Neither 2019 FO1, nor 2019 FH1 are expected to return to our corner of space any time soon.
…One More To Go
After such an eventful day, the excitement is not over yet. One more asteroid is due to pass by Earth later today, traveling at a cruising speed of more than 41,000 mph. The space rock in question is asteroid 2019 GN4, the largest of the group. First picked up by NASA’s radar less than a week ago, asteroid 2019 GN4 is estimated to measure anywhere between 98.4 feet and 219.8 feet in diameter.
The space rock is currently en route to our planet and will be popping by for a so-called “Earth close approach” at 6:20 p.m. ET. During the moment of its closest approach, asteroid 2019 GN4 will skim the planet from a distance of 1.73 million miles away. This means that during its close flyby of Earth, the space rock will be 7.33 times more distant than the moon.
According to the JPL, the asteroid will perform two more flybys of Earth over the next half a century. Its following visit will occur in the year 2062, after which asteroid 2019 GN4 will double back in the year 2075. However, neither of its upcoming approaches will bring it nearly as close to Earth as today’s flyby.