A large chunk of space rock, one believed to measure as much as 560 feet across, is currently en route toward Earth and will safely pass by our planet later this week. Known as asteroid 2019 OU1, the object will perform a very close flyby of Earth on Wednesday, when it will shoot past us at under three times the distance to the moon.
According to data released this weekend by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid was first discovered exactly one month ago, on July 25. After studying its orbital path around the sun, JPL scientists determined that the rock fit the bill as a near-Earth object (NEO) and classified it as an Apollo-type asteroid.
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.
Meanwhile, the asteroid's Apollo designation refers to the fact that this particular NEO has the potential of being "Earth-crossing." Named after asteroid 1862 Apollo, space rocks of this class zip around the solar system on an orbital path that occasionally allows them to cross Earth's orbit, NASA points out.
As far as NEOs go, asteroid 2019 OU1 is certainly a hefty one. Data from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) places the space rock within a size range of between 246 feet and up to 557.7 feet in diameter. This makes the asteroid 1.5 times larger than the 360-foot space rock that just darted past Earth this morning, per another report from The Inquisitr.
Asteroid 2019 OU1 is expected to swing by for its close approach to Earth on Wednesday morning. Barreling through the void of space at a little over 29,000 mph, the bulky rock will swoop past us at 6:36 a.m. ET on August 28.
The impending flyby will be a very close shave, per the JPL. As it speeds toward Earth, the asteroid will come within 632,400 miles of the planet's surface.
To put that into perspective, that's 2.68 times the distance to the moon. It's also the closest that asteroid 2019 OU1 has ever gotten to our planet – and the closest it will ever hope to get for the foreseeable future.
The last time the space rock paid Earth a visit was 44 years ago, in late 1975. At the time, the asteroid only approached within 15 million miles of the planet's surface. The wayfaring asteroid is due for another trip through our corner of the solar system in early 2064. However, the journey will only bring it a staggering 36 million miles of Earth.
The upcoming close brush with asteroid 2019 OU1 is just the latest in a series of close NEO encounters that have occurred this month. Last week, Earth was skimmed by a considerably smaller Apollo-type asteroid, which managed to creep in even closer. Only 36 feet wide, the tiny space rock passed between Earth and the moon on August 22. The asteroid buzzed our planet from just 186,000 miles away, as covered by The Inquisitr at the time.