Planet Earth is in for another series of close asteroid encounters this weekend. On Saturday, an entire cluster of five asteroids is set to safely fly past Earth, as previously reported by The Inquisitr. On Sunday, two more space rocks will shoot past our planet, one of them coming as close as three times the distance to the moon.
The two asteroids expected to swing by Earth tomorrow are not particularly large, per NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Known as asteroids 2019 TH2 and 2019 TT1, the two celestial bodies are estimated to measure no more than 101 feet and 121 feet in diameter, respectively. As such, neither of them holds a candle to the 301-foot, Statue of Liberty-sized asteroid due to dart past Earth this afternoon — and all three pale in comparison to the 3,250-foot behemoth slated to cruise by our planet later this month.
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, all of the asteroids expected to buzz Earth this weekend share a common trait. While the rocks may vary in size and speed and will approach Earth at a different time of day, all of them circle the sun on an orbit that occasionally allows them to intersect Earth’s orbit. As such, NASA has classified the objects as Apollo-type asteroids, labeling them as potentially “Earth-crossing.”
The first asteroid to swing by Earth tomorrow is 2019 TH2. This particular Apollo asteroid orbits the sun once every 926 days, or about two-and-a-half years, and occasionally passes through our neck of the cosmic woods as it circles the giant star. The 101-foot rock is expected to swoop in for its close approach to Earth in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning. Traveling through space at a cruising speed of 17,500 mph, the asteroid will reach its closest point to Earth at 2:03 a.m. ET, when it will pass at a distance of 2.2 million miles from the planet’s surface. To put that into perspective, that’s a little over nine times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Based on JPL records, this will be the closest-ever approach for the wayfaring asteroid. The space rock has visited Earth two times before, in 1943 and in 2014, only coming as close as 28.4 million miles of Earth during its first-ever flyby 76 years ago. Asteroid 2019 TH2 will return for another visit in 2024 and then again in 2133. However, its future flybys of Earth will only bring it as close as 15.4 million miles of the planet’s surface more than a century from now.
About 12 hours after asteroid 2019 TH2 passes by Earth, a slightly bigger, 121-foot rock will follow suit. This second celestial visitor is not only larger but also faster — and will buzz Earth from a much closer distance. According to a report released yesterday by the JPL, asteroid 2019 TT1 will approach Earth at 2:24 p.m. ET, hurtling past our planet at nearly 29,800 mph. As it barrels through the inner solar system, the asteroid will come within 688,200 miles of Earth — or exactly 2.9 times the distance to the moon. This will be the closest asteroid approach of the weekend — as well as the rock’s closest-ever flyby of Earth.
Asteroid 2019 TT1 orbits the sun once every 651 days. The rock has only performed one other flyby of Earth, in 1961, when it flew past the planet from 16.2 million miles away. Over the next six decades, the asteroid is set to pass by Earth three more times, only coming as close as 11.5 million miles in 2082.