Planet Earth was buzzed by a rather sizeable space rock on Saturday. Known as asteroid 2019 JR1, our celestial visitor swung by for what astronomers refer to as a “close Earth approach,” coming within a few million miles of the planet’s surface.
Classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), asteroid 2019 JR1 was only recently discovered, coming up on NASA’s radar – so to speak – a little over two weeks ago. First spotted on May 2, the space rock was determined to be an Apollo-type asteroid – meaning that it zips around the solar system in a similar fashion to asteroid 1862 Apollo, occasionally crossing Earth’s orbit around the sun.
According to data from NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), asteroid 2019 JR1 is estimated to measure anywhere between 108 feet and 242 feet in diameter. While a space rock this size could pose some serious problems should it wander a little too close for comfort, asteroid 2019 JR1 never gave us any reason to worry. The object performed a harmless flyby of Earth earlier today – and is not expected to return in the foreseeable future, announced asteroid trackers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
As CNEOS explains, near-Earth objects – such as asteroid 2019 JR1 – are celestial bodies, either asteroid or comets, “that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood.”
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers.”
Hurtling through space at incredible speeds of more than 22,000 mph, asteroid 2019 JR1 made its close approach to planet Earth at 1:46 p.m. ET. During today’s close encounter, the asteroid passed within 3.85 million miles of Earth. This means that, at its closest point to the planet’s surface, the space rock was 16.14 times more distant than the moon.
Tomorrow, planet Earth is in for another close brush with a much more formidable asteroid. As The Inquisitr recently reported, a massive 1,280-foot asteroid nearly three times as large as the Great Pyramid of Giza will pay Earth a close – but perfectly safe – visit on May 19, buzzing the planet from a distance of 4 million miles.
The series of close asteroid flybys continues on Monday with a visit from asteroid 2019 JL3. Discovered just 10 days ago, the space rock is thought to be between 92 feet and 206 feet wide and will zoom past Earth in the early hours of the morning.
After studying its orbit, trajectory, and proximity to our planet, asteroid trackers at JPL have pinpointed the moment of its close approach to 3:33 a.m. ET. While notably smaller than its predecessors, asteroid 2019 JL3 will pass a lot closer to our planet, skimming Earth from a distance of 585,900 miles. That’s 2.46 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
The asteroid will return in about two years’ time, coming around for another visit on August 25, 2021. However, its next flyby of Earth will be a considerably more distant one, that will bring it just 32.28 million miles of the planet’s surface.