Earlier today, Earth was buzzed by a tiny asteroid that managed to get incredibly close to the planet’s surface. Believed to be no larger than 24 feet across, the tiny space rock skimmed Earth shortly after noon, creeping in almost as close as the moon.
Known as asteroid 2019 SX, the minuscule space rock is the latest in a series of tiny asteroids that have ventured extremely close to Earth’s surface in the past few weeks. According to a recent report from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the small asteroid was first spotted yesterday and classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), specifically an Apollo-type asteroid.
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 roughly 30 million miles away from Earth’s orbit and as close to the planet’s surface as a few times the distance to the moon — or even closer, as was the case for asteroid 2019 SX.
Equally interesting is the rock’s designation as an Apollo asteroid. This specific classification is closely related to the object’s orbit around the sun and signifies that the rock 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.
Hurtling through the void of space at more than 32,000 mph, the tiny asteroid swooped in for its close approach to Earth at 12:45 p.m. ET on September 21. As it barreled past our planet at a break-neck speed, the small-scale asteroid managed to get as close as 260,400 miles of Earth. By comparison, the moon sits at an average distance of 238,900 miles from Earth. This means that, during its close flyby, the asteroid passed within 1.1 times the lunar distance.
About a couple of hours before its close brush with Earth, asteroid 2019 SX shot past the moon in a close encounter with the planet’s natural satellite. The trip brought the tiny rock within nearly 493,000 miles of the moon’s cratered surface.
Today’s near-miss comes just two days after another, slightly larger, 65.6-foot Apollo asteroid flew past our planet at a comparable distance, as covered by The Inquisitr at the time. Before that, an equally-sized Apollo asteroid cruised by Earth at 1.36 times the lunar distance on September 9.
These previous celestial visitors boast relatively hefty proportions compared to asteroid 2019 SX. Data from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) places the rock within a size range of between 10.8 feet and 24.2 feet in diameter. At the upper end of NASA’s size estimate, the asteroid is nearly one-third the size of the famous Chelyabinsk meteor that penetrated Earth’s atmosphere in 2013, exploding in the sky over Russia.
At the same time, the puny rock pales in comparison to the massive 1,410-foot Apollo asteroid due to pass by Earth next week, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.
Although only recently discovered, asteroid 2019 SX is not a new visitor through our corner of space. The tiny rock occasionally passes by Earth as it orbits the sun once every 454 days. The last time the asteroid swung by Earth was in 2016, when it cruised by our planet at staggering distance of a little over 17 million miles. The small asteroid will return for another visit in 2021 and then again in 2026.