A small asteroid, one that was only recently discovered, will come extremely close to Earth next week. Hurtling through the void of space at break-neck speeds of a little over 26,000 mph, the tiny rock will scrape past our planet on Tuesday, coming nearly as close as the moon.
The interesting thing about next week’s celestial visitor — other than the near-miss with Earth, that is — is that it almost slipped past NASA’s radar. The object was picked up by NASA asteroid trackers on October 5 — just two days ahead of its close brush with Earth. According to a report released yesterday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the rock was dubbed 2019 TW1 and was classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), particularly 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 is the case for asteroid 2019 TW1.
Aside from wandering extremely close to Earth, the wayfaring space rock possesses another intriguing trait. As an Apollo asteroid, it has the potential of being “Earth-crossing,” which means that it follows an orbital path that occasionally allows it to intersect Earth’s orbit.
Asteroid 2019 TW1 is the latest in a long string of Apollo asteroids that have zipped through our corner of space in recent weeks. Two such asteroids have just shot past Earth earlier today, coming within about 4 million miles of the planet’s surface, as covered by The Inquisitr.
While today’s celestial visitors were relatively sizable — the rocks were estimated to measure around 137 feet and 144 feet in diameter — asteroid 2019 TW1 doesn’t boast such large dimensions. The rock is believed to be somewhere between 24 feet and 52.4 feet across, per NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
This places the asteroid somewhat on the smaller side. At 52 feet wide, the rock doesn’t hold a candle to the massive 3,250-foot Apollo asteroid due to shoot past Earth on October 25. In fact, asteroid 2019 TW1 is about the size of the famous Chelyabinsk meteor that penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere in 2013.
Though only slightly larger than asteroid 2019 TW1, the 65.5-foot Chelyabinsk meteor caused a substantial amount of damage when it exploded in the sky over Russia, destroying more than 7,200 buildings and injuring nearly 1,500 people.
Thankfully, the upcoming close brush with asteroid 2019 TW1 won’t pose any threat to Earth and its inhabitants. NASA assures that the asteroid will harmlessly pass by our planet at a safe distance, only coming within 344,100 miles of Earth’s surface.
By comparison, the moon sits at an average distance of 238,900 miles from Earth. This means that, during its close flyby of Earth, the asteroid will pass within 1.47 times the lunar distance.
The wayfaring space rock is expected to approach Earth in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning, darting past our planet at 3:09 a.m. ET. Before its close brush with Earth, the asteroid will swing by the moon, cruising past its cratered surface at a distance of 520,800 miles.
Next week’s flyby will mark the asteroid’s first-ever trip through our corner of the solar system. The rock is not expected to return for the foreseeable future.