A rather sizeable asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and will reach our planet tomorrow morning. Known as asteroid 2019 OD, the drifting space rock is believed to be up the 393 feet across and will pass closer than the moon just in time for the morning coffee, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced today.
Interestingly enough, the asteroid will be preceded by a similarly-sized space rock approaching Earth in the early pre-dawn hours, per a previous report from The Inquisitr. Dubbed asteroid 2015 HM10, the object won't, however, come anywhere as near as its successor, quietly flying past us from 2.91 million miles away.
First spotted two-and-a-half weeks ago, asteroid 2019 OD has been kept under close watch by NASA. After studying its orbital path around the sun, the JPL team was able to determine that 2019 OD is an Apollo-type asteroid (just like 2015 HM10) and classified the rock as a near-Earth object (NEO).
To qualify for the NEO 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 – or even closer.
At the same time, the asteroid's Apollo classification suggests that the object has the potential to be "Earth-crossing," meaning that it can not only approach our planet, but also occasionally cross Earth's orbit, NASA points out.
While NEOs certainly come in all shapes and sizes and buzz Earth from various distances, some wandering closer to the planet's surface than others, asteroid 2019 OD is certainly one for the record book. The relatively hefty space rock is due for an extremely close flyby of our home world – so close, in fact, that it will pass between Earth and the moon.
Data released today by NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) places the asteroid within a size estimate between 170.60 feet and 393.70 feet in diameter. At this size, asteroid 2019 OD is 33 feet wider than its predecessor, 2015 HM10.
Barreling through the void of space at nearly 43,000 mph, the 393-foot rock will come in for its close brush with Earth at 9:31 a.m. ET. During its close approach to our planet, the asteroid will skim Earth from 213,900 miles, creeping in closer than the moon.
To put that into perspective, the moon sits at an average distance of 238,900 miles from Earth. This means that, during tomorrow's close encounter, the asteroid will pass within 0.93 the lunar distance.
Although the fast-traveling asteroid is expected to swoop by in very close quarters with Earth, JPL assures that the encounter will be a perfectly safe one. The space rock will harmlessly pass by us tomorrow morning and then exit the inner solar system to continue its journey around the sun.
Shortly after its extremely close flyby of Earth, the space rock will swing by the moon. JPL data shows that asteroid 2019 OD will shoot past the moon at 9:44 a.m. ET, coming within 297,600 miles of the lunar surface. The wayfaring asteroid will not be returning to our corner of space for the foreseeable future.