A rather sizeable asteroid thought to be up to 134 feet wide is currently hurtling toward Earth and will safely pass by our planet later today. Dubbed asteroid 2019 QY5, the rock was discovered just two days ago, on August 29, and is on course for its first-ever close approach to Earth.
A recent report from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) places the asteroid in the category of celestial bodies known as near-Earth objects (NEO). These objects are comets or asteroids that 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.
After analyzing its orbital path, JPL scientists classified the rock as an Amor-type asteroid. Unlike Apollo and Aten asteroids, which are known to occasionally cross Earth’s orbit as they circle the sun, Amor asteroids follow an orbital path that allows them to approach Earth without actually crossing the planet’s orbit, NASA points out.
According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), asteroid 2019 QY5 is estimated to measure at least 59 feet in diameters and is believed to be up to 134.5 feet across. While the rock is not among the largest NEOs that have traipsed through our corner of space, it’s still relatively large compared to some of Earth’s most recent celestial visitors. For instance, it is nearly four times bigger than the 34-foot asteroid that skimmed Earth on August 21, passing closer than the moon, as previously covered by The Inquisitr.
Asteroid 2019 QY5 is expected to pop by for a close, but perfectly safe, approach to Earth in the late hours of the afternoon. Barreling through the void of space at nearly 22,500 mph, the object will dart past us at 7:50 p.m. ET on August 31.
The upcoming close asteroid encounter won’t pose any threat to Earth and its inhabitants, assures the JPL. The asteroid will harmlessly pass by our planet at a safe distance of 2.5 million miles. To put that into perspective, that’s 10.73 times the distance to the moon.
Today’s flyby will mark the asteroid’s first trip to our corner of the solar system. Previously, the rock performed a relatively close flyby of Jupiter nearly a century ago, as it passed through the outer solar system. The object will swing by the gas giant again in 2098 and then return to the inner solar system in 2112 for a second visit of Earth.