On Sunday, Earth will be visited by a rather sizable asteroid. Known as asteroid 2019 LC5, this particular space rock was only discovered earlier this year, but it's a frequent traveler through our corner of space.
First spotted at the end of May, the space rock has been classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO). As such, it has been attentively observed by NASA's Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which has kept a close eye on its trajectory and proximity to planet Earth.
As CNEOS explains, NEOs are celestial objects, such as comets or asteroids, "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."After monitoring the asteroid's orbital path for the past 14 days, in a total of 37 observations, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have concluded that 2019 LC5 is an Apollo-type asteroid. This means that the space rock can not only approach our planet in its journey around the sun, but it can also occasionally cross Earth's orbit, NASA points out.
The remarkable thing about asteroid 2019 LC5 is that it regularly swings by Earth twice a year – once in late June, and once in early November. And, according to a recent report from the JPL, the object is due for the first of its biannual flybys of Earth this weekend.
Data released earlier this week by the JPL shows that asteroid 2019 LC5 will be making a close approach to Earth tomorrow afternoon. The space rock is estimated to measure anywhere between 105 feet and 233 feet across and will swing by for its close encounter with Earth at 5:18 p.m. ET on June 23.
During the moment of its closest approach to the planet's surface, the asteroid will be barreling through space at breakneck speeds of more than 24,700 mph. While an object of this size and velocity could potentially pose some serious concern should it wander too close for comfort, NASA assures that tomorrow's flyby will be a perfectly safe one.
In fact, the asteroid will harmlessly pass by us at a considerable distance of the planet's surface, only coming within 3.2 million miles of Earth. To put that into perspective, that's nearly 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
In a few months' time, asteroid 2019 LC5 will return for its second visit of the year. Its next flyby of planet Earth is expected to occur on November 1, and will only bring the space rock within 35.7 million miles of Earth's surface.
Interestingly enough, the object follows the same pattern each year it swings through our corner of the solar system. Its summer flybys take it a lot closer to planet Earth than its subsequent autumnal visits. This was the case for last year's close encounters as well.
The same thing will also happen in 2022, when asteroid 2019 LC5 will come around for another set of biannual visits.