Hot on the heels of a multiple asteroid flyby on Tuesday, another wayfaring space rock is about to shoot past Earth on Wednesday. According to a report released yesterday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a rather sizable rock is currently making its way toward Earth and will safely fly past our planet later today.
Today’s celestial visitor is known as asteroid 2019 SL7 and was only recently discovered. First picked up by NASA asteroid trackers on September 26, the space rock is due to skim Earth in the late hours of the morning — nearly two weeks after it was first spotted. Hurtling through the void of space at speeds of a little over 38,000 mph, the asteroid will scrape past Earth at 10:28 a.m. ET, passing nearly as close as the moon.
The close asteroid approach comes just one day after eight different space rocks swung by Earth on October 8, three of them buzzing the planet from very close by, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.
Similar to the asteroids that visited Earth yesterday, asteroid 2019 SL7 is also classified as an Apollo -type asteroid. This indicates that the asteroid has the potential of being “Earth-crossing,” which means that it circles the sun on an orbital path that allows it to intersect the orbit of Earth. The space rock zips around the sun once ever four years or so and will perform its first-ever flyby of Earth on October 9.
As far as size is concerned, asteroid 2019 SL7 is not particularly hefty. The object is estimated to be at least 59 feet wide and can measure up to 131 feet in diameter, per NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Although the rock is bigger than some of the asteroids that darted past Earth yesterday, it pales in comparison to the massive 3,250-foot Apollo asteroid due to cruise by Earth later this month.
As it speeds past Earth on its journey around the sun, asteroid 2019 SL7 will approach as close as 334,800 miles from the planet’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 1.41 times the distance to the moon.
Before its close brush with Earth, the space rock will make a quick pass by the moon. The asteroid will zip past its cratered surface in the early hours of the morning, coming within a distance of 474,300 miles.
While a close encounter with an asteroid — particularly one that comes so close to the planet’s surface — can be understandably daunting, NASA assures that there is no cause for alarm. The asteroid will harmlessly pass by Earth and the moon, and then exit the inner solar system and continue its journey around the sun.
“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.”
In the case of asteroid 2019 SL7, JPL scientists used a total of 51 observations to gauge out its orbital path and establish when and how close the rock will pass by Earth.
Following today’s flyby of Earth, the asteroid will disappear for nearly six decades. The rock won’t return to the inner solar system until 2078, when it will make a close pass by Venus, buzzing the planet from 3.9 million miles away.