There are always those who feel as if the Earth is eventually headed for some kind of huge disaster and that there isn’t much of a long term plan for us. While that may end up being true one day, there is still so much to check out and research in the universe, chief among them Asteroid 1999 KW4. This weekend, the nearly mile-wide asteroid will come close to Earth and it’s going to be bringing its own moon with it.
As reported by Earth Sky, the asteroid is expected to pass by Earth on Saturday evening and it’s going to be traveling at a speed of 48,000 miles-per-hour. Asteroid 1999 KW4 is an Aten type space rock which means it is “Earth-crossing.”
Every 188 days, the asteroid completes an orbit around the sun and it passes between the orbits of Venus and Earth. On Saturday, May 25, 2019, the asteroid is going to pass at a very safe distance of 3,219,955 miles, which means that no one really has anything to worry about.
To put that distance into perspective, it is around 13.5 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.
Asteroid 1999 KW4 is looked at as a “double asteroid” even though some consider the secondary rock as the primary asteroid’s “moon.” It is an actual asteroid moon that does orbit the main asteroid, which gives sky-watchers double the chance of seeing something up and above the atmosphere.
Huge double asteroid to pass safely May 25 ????
Astronomers will be observing asteroid 1999 KW4 – oddly shaped, about a mile wide, with a companion moon – around its closest approach on May 25. Read more: https://t.co/UCBILXQOeu ????
Images via Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. pic.twitter.com/Xi4kAYfELB
— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) May 19, 2019
On Saturday evening, and a few days surrounding May 25, professional and amateur astronomers may be able to observe 1999 KW4 and its odd shape. For those hoping to see the smaller “moon,” you’d have to hope that it passes at a time when it is visible in its 16-hour orbit.
The primary space rock of this double asteroid has an oblate shape with an equatorial ridge which is similar to other asteroids such as Ryugu and Bennu.
Asteroid 1999 KW4 was first discovered by the Lincoln Laboratory’s Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in Socorro, New Mexico, back in 1999. There have been those who have classified it as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” due to its close proximity to Earth, but again, it is still more than 3.2 million miles away.
If you happen to head outside this Saturday night or any night within the next week, take a look to the sky and try to catch a glimpse of asteroid 1999 KW4. There is a good possibility that with the right lighting and a little luck, you could see it and its smaller moon passing by Earth. If you don’t get to see it this time, you’ll have to wait until 2036 for it to be this close to our planet again.