A newly discovered asteroid, one that was spotted by NASA merely one day ago, is currently making its way toward Earth and will reach the planet’s vicinity tomorrow morning. Barreling through the void of space at nearly 20,400 mph, or more than 26.5 times the speed of sound, the asteroid will swing by Earth in the pre-dawn hours of October 5, quietly passing by our planet from a safe distance of just under 1 million miles.
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), tomorrow’s close encounter with the wayfaring space rock will be one for the records. A report released yesterday by the JPL — on the very same day that the asteroid was discovered — highlighted that the upcoming flyby will be the rock’s closest approach to Earth in more than a century. As it turns out, although only recently discovered, the asteroid is quite familiar to our corner of space. The rock, which has been dubbed asteroid 2019 TV, occasionally passes through our celestial neighborhood as it orbits the sun once every 2.6 years.
In the past 115 years, the asteroid visited Earth another four times, getting as close as 4.6 million miles in late October 1904. The space rock will come a lot closer to the planet’s surface when it pops by for a visit in the morning, making tomorrow’s flyby its closest one yet.
Asteroid 2019 TV is expected to swoop in for its close approach at 2:57 a.m. EDT on Saturday. At its closest point to Earth, the rock will fly at a distance of 976,500 miles from the planet’s surface, harmlessly cruising by Earth on its journey around the sun. To put that into perspective, that’s a little over four times the distance to the moon.
Tomorrow’s flyby comes just one day after a tiny 36-foot asteroid skimmed Earth nearly as close as the moon on Friday afternoon.
Size-wise, asteroid 2019 TV is not particularly hefty. The rock is only slightly larger than yesterday’s celestial visitor, per NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The asteroid is thought to be at least 21.6 feet wide and is estimated to measure up to 49 feet in diameter. This places it rather on the small side, especially considering that Earth has seen some truly massive asteroids swing by over the past couple of weeks.
After studying its orbital path in order to plot its course through the inner solar system, JPL scientists determined that asteroid 2019 TV has the potential of being “Earth-crossing” and classified it as an Apollo-type asteroid. As NASA explains, Apollo asteroids get their name from the famous asteroid 1862 Apollo and all share a common trait — they zip through the solar system on an orbit that occasionally allows them to intersect that of Earth.
The last time that asteroid 2019 TV wandered through our corner of the solar system was in late 1944. At the time, the rock buzzed Earth from nearly 32 million miles away. The asteroid will double back for another visit six decades from now, in 2080, when it will pass at a staggering distance of 45 million miles from the planet’s surface. After that, it will disappear for a little over a century, only to return in 2186.