Earlier today, a rather sizeable asteroid swung through Earth’s cosmic neighborhood on its closest-ever approach to our planet. Known as asteroid 2019 LV1, the wayfaring space rock swooped by in the early evening hours and got as close as a little over five times the distance to the moon.
As its name suggests, our celestial visitor was discovered only this year. First spotted exactly one month ago, asteroid 2019 LV1 has been attentively monitored by NASA asteroid trackers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. After studying its orbital path over the course of 58 observations spanning 29 days, JPL scientists were able to compile a list of all of the asteroid’s past and future flybys of Earth.
Released to the public on Saturday, the list encompasses the object’s close encounters with planet Earth dating back to the year 1900 and stretching 66 years into the future, until the year 2085. Of all of the asteroid’s previous trips through our corner of space, today’s brush with Earth has brought it the closest to the planet’s surface. At the same time, today’s celestial encounter was the closest that asteroid 2019 LV1 ever hopes to get to our homeworld for the foreseeable future.
Based on its orbit around the sun and its proximity to our planet, asteroid 2019 LV1 has been classified as a near-Earth object (NEO). To qualify for the designation, a celestial object – be it a comet or an asteroid – needs to orbit somewhere between approximately 91 million and 121 million miles from the sun, explains NASA.
This means that, in their journey around the sun, NEOs can venture as far as about 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit and as close to the planet’s surface as a few times the distance to the moon. Some NEOs manage to creep in even closer, occasionally passing between Earth and its natural satellite. However, this was not the case for asteroid 2019 LV1.
According to NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the space rock is estimated to measure at least 72 feet in diameter and be up to 164 feet wide. At the upper end of that size estimate, asteroid 2019 LV1 is 2.5 times larger than the famous Chelyabinsk meteor. As The Inquisitr previously reported, the bolide penetrated Earth’s atmosphere in 2013, exploding in the sky over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia and causing a substantial amount of damage.
While asteroid 2019 LV1 didn’t make it close enough to breach Earth’s atmosphere, it did, nevertheless, manage to pass quite close to the planet’s surface. Traveling at a cruising speed of a little over 13,800 mph, the asteroid made its closest approach to Earth at 6:30 p.m. ET today, coming within 1.23 million miles of our home world. To put that into perspective, that’s 5.2 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
As far as NEO close encounters go, today has proved to be full of excitement. A second report from the JPL unveiled that Earth was actually visited by two NEOs today. Before the close brush with asteroid 2019 LV1, another – slightly bigger – space rock made a run through our corner of the solar system. Dubbed asteroid 2019 LR4, the object performed a close flyby of Earth in the early pre-dawn hours, darting past our planet at 1:52 a.m. ET.
Interestingly enough, just like in the case of its successor, today’s close encounter with Earth was the closest-ever for asteroid 2019 LR4 as well. However, unlike 2019 LV1, the space rock buzzed planet Earth from a lot farther away. Hurtling through the void of space at nearly 18,500 mph, the asteroid missed Earth by 2.67 million miles, only coming in within 11.23 times the distance to the moon.