August 28 will be a busy day for close asteroid encounters. Planet Earth will be visited by two rather sizeable space rocks on Wednesday morning, scientists at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) have announced.
The two asteroids have only been recently discovered and are large enough to be monitored by NASA asteroid trackers. After tracing their orbital path around the sun, NASA classified the two celestial bodies as near-Earth objects (NEOs), specifically as Apollo-type asteroids.
As NASA explains, NEOs are celestial objects such as comets or asteroids that orbit somewhere between approximately 91 million and 121 million miles from the sun. 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, their Apollo designation refers to the fact that these particular NEOs have 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.
The first one to buzz Earth in the early hours of Wednesday morning will be a relatively hefty space rock known as 2019 QS. The object was first spotted less than a week ago, on August 21, and is currently en route for its first-ever close approach to Earth.
According to CNEOS, the asteroid is estimated to be at least 108 feet wide and is thought to measure up to 240 feet in diameter. While this may not be the most imposing space rock that has traipsed through our cosmic neighborhood over the last few weeks, asteroid 2019 QS is still large enough to pose some serious concerns should it wander too close for comfort. Thankfully, this won’t be the case on Wednesday. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) assures that the asteroid will harmlessly pass by our planet as it circles the sun, coming within a safe distance from Earth.
Hurtling through space at phenomenal speeds of more than 50,000 mph, the asteroid will reach its closest point to Earth at 2:31 a.m. ET. The encounter will mark its first-ever trip through our corner of the solar system and will bring the rock within 1.3 million miles of Earth. To put that into perspective, that’s 5.48 times the distance to the moon.
The asteroid is not expected to return for the foreseeable future.
Asteroid 2019 QS will be followed by another, even bigger, space rock that will creep in a lot closer to Earth on Wednesday. Dubbed asteroid 2019 OU1, the object is believed to be as much as 560 feet across, or 2.3 times the size of its predecessor.
This second celestial visitor will swing by a few short hours after asteroid 2019 QS, as covered by The Inquisitr. Its journey through space will take it as close as 632,400 miles of Earth, or 2.68 times the lunar distance.
The upcoming asteroid flybys on Wednesday are 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 extremely close to our planet. Estimated to be just 36 feet wide, the tiny space rock passed closer than the moon on August 22, buzzing Earth from just 186,000 miles away, per a previous report from The Inquisitr.