Tomorrow will be a very prolific day for close asteroid encounters. Eight different space rocks are expected to shoot past Earth throughout the day, three of which will be passing extremely close to the planet’s surface.
According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the eight asteroids due to swing by Earth on October 8 were all recently discovered — most of them were only spotted just last week, while the rest were picked up by NASA asteroid trackers in early September. Another thing that these rocks have in common — aside from the date of their impending flyby of Earth, that is — is their classification as Apollo-type asteroids. Reports issued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) showed that all of these objects are Apollo asteroids — save for one, which was classified as an Aten-type asteroid.
As NASA explains, both Apollo and Aten asteroids are known for their potential of being “Earth-crossing.” Named after asteroid 1862 Apollo, Apollo asteroids zip around the solar system on an orbital path that occasionally allows them to intersect Earth’s orbit. The same goes for Aten asteroids, which get their name from asteroid 2062 Aten. The only difference is that Aten asteroids actually spend most of their time inside Earth’s orbit.
The first asteroid to scrape past Earth tomorrow is a 121-foot space rock known as asteroid 2019 TU. The object was discovered just four days ago and is a frequent traveler through our neck of the cosmic woods. The rock orbits the sun once every 673 days and occasionally swings by Earth as it treks the inner solar system. The asteroid is expected to approach Earth in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning and is one of the three space rocks that will skim the planet from very close by. Hurtling through space at nearly 22,000 mph, the asteroid will reach its closest point to Earth at 2:27 a.m. ET, when it will pass within 1.04 million miles from the planet’s surface. To put that into perspective, that’s 4.38 times the distance to the moon.
Less than an hour later, Earth will be visited by asteroid 2019 TW1. The rock was picked up by NASA’s radar, so to speak, only two days ago and is estimated to be about 52 feet wide. The asteroid will zip past us at 3:09 a.m. ET, barreling past the planet’s surface at a break-neck speed of over 26,100 mph. Of all the asteroids due to buzz Earth tomorrow, 2019 TW1 will creep in the closest to our planet. The space rock will pass within 344,100 miles from Earth’s surface, or nearly as close as the moon.
The next celestial visitor to swing by Earth is asteroid 2019 RK, a 167-foot space rock spotted last month. Asteroid 2019 RK is the slowest of the bunch, only traveling at a cruising speed of a little over 6,800 mph. The rock will drop by just in time for the morning coffee, approaching Earth at 7:25 a.m. ET. Of the eight asteroids, 2019 RK will be the second farthest away from the planet’s surface, only coming within 3.97 million miles of Earth.
Fifteen minutes later, asteroid 2019 TC1 will buzz Earth at more than 29,300 mph. The rock is believed to be 65.6 feet wide — or roughly the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in the sky over Russia in 2013. Unlike the Chelyabinsk meteor, the asteroid won’t pose any threat of penetrating Earth’s atmosphere; it will, however, come pretty close to the planet’s surface, being one of the three rocks to skim Earth tomorrow. Asteroid 2019 TC1 will get as close as 3.5 times the distance to the moon, flying past Earth from 827, 700 miles away.
Asteroid 2019 TC1 will be followed by two space rocks that will pass by Earth at the exact same time. One of them is asteroid 2019 TM, a 206-foot space rock that will approach Earth at a speed of more than 28,900 mph, coming within 2.24 million miles of the planet’s surface. The other is asteroid 2019 SB6, the only Aten asteroid in the group. The rock is believed to measure 88.5 feet across and is traveling at a velocity of 17,500 mph. The Aten asteroid will pass a little closer to Earth, safely flying past us from 1.85 million miles away.
Next in line is a 157-foot space rock known as asteroid 2019 TS. The rock is expected to swoop in for its close encounter with Earth at 10:36 a.m. ET. Traveling at 17,300 mph, the asteroid will fly past Earth from a distance of just under 2 million miles.
Tomorrow’s unusually long string of close asteroid encounters will end with asteroid 2019 TV1. The space rock is thought to be no bigger than 124 feet across and will buzz Earth in the evening, flying past us at 9:16 p.m. ET. Cruising by at 20,000 mph, the asteroid will pass the farthest away from Earth, only getting within 4.05 million miles of the planet’s surface.