A rather sizeable chunk of space rock is due to zoom past our planet tomorrow. Dubbed asteroid 2019 HO3, the celestial object is estimated to be up to 393 feet wide and will swing through our corner of space in the early hours of Wednesday morning for a so-called "Earth close approach," asteroid trackers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, announced yesterday.
Discovered in early April, the asteroid has been kept under strict observation for the past 25 days. After studying its trajectory, speed, and proximity to Earth, JPL specialists have pinpointed the date and hour of its close flyby of our planet. According to their calculations, asteroid 2019 HO3 will dart past Earth at 6:17 a.m. tomorrow morning.
During the moment of its close approach, the asteroid will be hurtling through space at break-neck speeds of more than 41,000 mph. That's 54.3 times the speed of sound.
Classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), the space rock is estimated to measure anywhere between 170.6 feet and 393.7 feet in diameter. While an asteroid of this size would pose some serious problems if it happened to wander a little too close for comfort, tomorrow's flyby will be a perfectly safe one. Data from NASA's Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) shows that there's no reason to fret as the space rock poses no danger of colliding with planet Earth.
In fact, during tomorrow's close approach, asteroid 2019 HO3 will only come within 3.27 million miles of our planet's surface. Given this vast distance – which is equivalent to 0.0352 astronomical units (AU), where one AU represents the distance between the Earth and the sun, or roughly 93 million miles – the space rock will be 13.7 times more distant than the moon when it comes barreling through our neck of the cosmic woods on Wednesday morning.
Tomorrow's close brush with asteroid 2019 HO3 won't be neither the first nor the last encounter with the wayfaring space rock. As the JPL data revealed, this particular NEO has been coming around our corner of the solar system for nearly a century – and will continue to do so for at least another 175 years.
The last time the space rock paid Earth a visit was almost exactly one year ago, on April 18, 2018. However, during its previous flyby, the asteroid buzzed Earth from a lot farther away, as it only managed to creep in within 27.8 million miles of our planet.
Asteroid 2019 HO3 will return for another close encounter next year, on April 24. After that, the space rock will disappear for a few years, only to resurface in the year 2026.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, NEOs are celestial bodies, such as comets and asteroids, that circle the sun on an orbit which 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.