A huge asteroid thought to be so large that it could potentially fit the Great Pyramid of Giza nearly two times over is headed for a close encounter with planet Earth tomorrow. Known as asteroid 2019 RC, the giant space rock is estimated to measure as much as 853 feet in diameter and was flagged as potentially dangerous, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have announced.
Hurtling through space at a cruising speed of more than 33,700 mph, the formidable space rock will reach Earth's vicinity on Monday afternoon. While a close encounter with an asteroid of this size is certainly unnerving, NASA assures there's no reason to panic. The massive asteroid will harmlessly pass by Earth at 4:43 p.m. ET on September 16, only coming within a little over 4.1 million miles of the planet's surface. To put that into perspective, that's a little over 17 times the distance to the moon.
As is the case with any giant space rock that traipses through our cosmic neighborhood, asteroid 2019 RC has been very carefully monitored by the JPL. The rock was only discovered two weeks ago, on September 2, and has been kept under a close watch ever since.
After a series of close observations, JPL scientists were able to plot the asteroid's course through the inner solar system and pinpoint when it will approach Earth -- and just how close it'll get.
"Scientists determine the orbit of an asteroid by comparing measurements of its position as it moves across the sky to the predictions of a computer model of its orbit around the sun," explains NASA.
"The more observations that are used and the longer the period over which those observations are made, the more accurate the calculated orbit and the predictions that can be made from it."