A tiny asteroid measuring no more than 33 feet in diameter just shot past Earth in an extremely close encounter, flying between our planet and the moon. Known as asteroid 2019 RC1, the tiny space rock was discovered only two days before its spectacularly close approach to Earth and is the second asteroid to creep in closer than the moon in the past three weeks.
According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), asteroid 2019 RC1 is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), specifically an Apollo-type asteroid. To qualify for the NEO designation, NASA explains, a celestial object -- like a comet or an asteroid -- needs to orbit somewhere between approximately 91 million and 121 million miles from the sun. This means that in their journey around the sun, NEOs can be as far as about 30 million miles from Earth, and about as close to our planet's surface as a few times the distance to the moon -- or even closer, as was the case for asteroid 2019 RC1.
The asteroid's Apollo designation means 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 says.
NEOs come in all shapes and sizes, and asteroid 2019 RC1 is not among the heftiest rocks that have traipsed through our corner of space in recent weeks. On Sept. 6, the massive and potentially dangerous 1,214-foot Apollo asteroid shot past Earth, per another report from The Inquisitr. But a size estimate from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) places asteroid 2019 RC1 on the smaller side, indicating that it measures between 14.7 feet and 32.8 feet in diameter.
The asteroid swooped in for its very close approach to Earth in the early hours of the morning on Sept. 7. Whizzing past Earth at a phenomenal speed of nearly 45,500 mph, the tiny space rock skimmed the planet's surface at 6:48 a.m. ET.
Its incredibly close flyby brought the rock just 111,600 miles of Earth. By comparison, the moon sits at an average distance of 238,900 miles from Earth. This means that asteroid 2019 RC1 passed within 0.48 lunar distance.
Before its close brush with Earth, the rock checked off a close encounter with the moon, as well. As it made its way toward our planet, asteroid 2019 RC1 passed within 251,100 miles of the moon's surface, about an hour and a half before it buzzed by Earth.
The last time an asteroid approached so close to our planet was a little over two weeks ago. On Aug. 21, a slightly larger, 36-foot-wide Apollo asteroid skimmed Earth from 186,000 miles away, as reported by The Inquisitr.
Today's close encounter was the first time asteroid 2019 RC1 passed through our corner of the solar system. It will not return to our celestial neighborhood for the foreseeable future.
Asteroid 2019 RC1 was preceded by a much bigger, 160-foot Apollo asteroid that darted past Earth at 2:55 a.m. ET on Sept. 7. The Apollo asteroid came within 4.5 lunar distance, as previously covered by The Inquisitr.