Yesterday afternoon, planet Earth was buzzed by a newly-discovered space rock in yet another asteroid close encounter. Dubbed 2019 JD8, the celestial object harmlessly flew past our home world, coming in for what astronomers refer to a “close Earth approach.”
Discovered only last week, the asteroid has been classified as a near-Earth object (NEO) – a celestial body that circles the sun on an orbital path which allows it to “enter the Earth’s neighborhood,” explains NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). These objects, which range from asteroids to comets, have earned their moniker after having been “nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets” into orbits that occasionally bring them close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers.”
First spotted on May 15, yesterday’s cosmic visitor has been carefully monitored by NASA asteroid trackers for the past 10 days. After thoroughly analyzing its speed, size, trajectory, and proximity to planet Earth, specialists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, determined that the asteroid was on track for a safe flyby of Earth on May 26.
According to data released by CNEOS, asteroid 2019 JD8 is estimated to measure anywhere between 105 feet and 236 feet in diameter. While an asteroid of this size could potentially pose some problems should it wander too close for comfort, the wayfaring space rock was never any cause for concern.
For one thing, even at the upper end of that size estimate, asteroid 2019 JD8 is completely dwarfed by the nearly mile-wide behemoth that safely buzzed planet Earth on Saturday from a comparable distance, per a previous report from The Inquisitr. Its size aside, the asteroid’s orbit revealed that its “close” pass by Earth would only bring it within a few million miles of our planet’s surface.
While some NEOs are known to skim Earth from very close distances, sometimes even creeping in between our planet and the moon, this was not the case for asteroid 2019 JD8. During its close brush with planet Earth, the space rock only managed to approach from a distance of a little over 3.5 million miles away. To put that into perspective, that’s 14.77 times the distance to the moon.
The celestial visitor swung by for its close encounter with planet Earth at 3:07 p.m. ET. During the moment of its closest approach, asteroid 2019 JD8 zoomed past our planet at formidable speeds of more than 33,000 mph.
Following its May 26 flyby of planet Earth, the asteroid will continue its journey through the solar system without popping by for another visit. JPL data shows that the space rock is unlikely to return for the foreseeable future.