Two rather sizeable asteroids, each measuring up to 360 feet in diameter, are headed toward Earth and will safely swing by our planet next week. According to NASA asteroid trackers at the Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the space rocks will harmlessly pass by Earth on Friday, June 14, coming within a few million miles of the planet’s surface.
While the two asteroids boast a similar size and will pay Earth a visit on the same day, the space rocks couldn’t be more different. For one thing, they each belong to a different class of asteroid as determined by their orbit – one of them being an Apollo-type asteroid, while the other is an Amor-type asteroid. Furthermore, the objects have been discovered years apart, are traveling through space at significantly different speeds, and will swoop in for their respective close approach to Earth at different hours of the day – albeit within less than half an hour of each other.
The first celestial visitor to whiz past Earth next Friday is asteroid 2013 YA14. As its name suggests, the space rock was first spotted six years ago – on November 28, 2013, to be precise. Estimated to be between 157 feet and 360 feet wide, this particular object is an Apollo asteroid, meaning that it can not only approach planet Earth but also cross its orbit.
Classified as a near-Earth object (NEO) – a celestial body, such as a comet or an asteroid, that circles the sun on an orbital path which allows it to “enter Earth’s neighborhood,” as explained by CNEOS – asteroid 2013 YA14 is due for a so-called “close Earth approach” on Friday afternoon.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers,” CNEOS points out.
Data from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, shows that asteroid 2013 YA14 is expected to pop by for a close encounter with planet Earth at 1:48 p.m. ET on June 14. During the moment of its close approach, the asteroid will be barreling through space at nearly 25,000 mph.
While many NEOs manage to get quite close to Earth’s surface, sometimes even creeping in between our planet and the moon, this will not be the case for asteroid 2013 YA14. The space rock is following a trajectory that will only bring it within 3.48 million miles of Earth. To put that into perspective, that’s 14.62 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
The asteroid will make a return trip to our corner of space in two years’ time, performing another close flyby of Earth at the end of 2022. On its next visit, asteroid 2013 YA14 will approach a little closer to the planet’s surface, passing within 2.9 million miles of Earth.
Shortly after the flyby of asteroid 2013 YA14 on Friday, another space rock will dart past Earth in a second close asteroid encounter. Dubbed 2019 KJ, the second NEO to approach Earth on June 14 has been classified as an Amor asteroid. This means that, unlike its predecessor, asteroid 2019 KJ follows an orbital path which allows it to approach Earth without actually crossing the planet’s orbit.
According to the JPL, the space rock is estimated to measure between 167 feet and 360 feet across. The object will fly past Earth a short 26 minutes after its predecessor, coming in for its close approach at 2:15 p.m. ET.
Hurtling through the void of space at a little over 18,000 mph, asteroid 2019 KJ will buzz planet Earth from 3 million miles away, or 12.60 times the distance to the moon. The space rock is not expected to return for the foreseeable future.