Hot on the heels of a close asteroid encounter that will bring a 121-foot space rock within three times the distance to the moon on Sunday afternoon, another asteroid is gearing up to skim Earth on Monday. This new celestial visitor is slightly smaller and will buzz Earth from a little farther away, but will still get within a few times the lunar distance, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have announced.
Perhaps one of the most striking things about this particular asteroid is that it belongs to a fresh haul of recently discovered space rocks that have been zipping through our cosmic neighborhood all week long. The rock was picked up by NASA asteroid trackers just this week, being first spotted on October 9. Dubbed asteroid 2019 TA7, the object is estimated to measure up to 111-feet in diameter. The rock orbits the sun once every 240 days, or about 0.6 years, and frequently passes by Earth as it treks the inner solar system on its journey around the sun, shooting past our planet almost on a yearly basis.
As it circles the giant star, the near-Earth asteroid follows an orbital path similar to that of asteroid 2062 Aten, a 2,950-foot space rock that orbits the sun once every 347 days. As such, asteroid 2019 TA7 was classified by the JPL as an Aten-type asteroid, a designation that indicates its potential of being “Earth-crossing.” As NASA explains, Aten asteroids circle the sun on an orbit that allows them not only to approach Earth but also to cross the planet’s orbit. In fact, asteroids of this class spend most of their time inside Earth’s orbit, says NASA.
While asteroid 2019 TA7 may not be the heftiest space rock to wander through our corner of the solar system over the last few days — the rock pales in comparison to the pyramid-sized, 460-foot asteroid that buzzed Earth on October 10 — its impeding flyby of Earth is certainly a momentous one. According to JPL records, this will be the asteroid’s closest approach to our planet in 115 years.
The asteroid is expected to swoop in for its close brush with Earth at 6:53 p.m. ET on October 14. Hurtling through the void of space at a cruising speed of a little over 23,700 mph, the near-Earth asteroid will venture as close as 930,000 miles from the planet’s surface — or just under four times the distance to the moon.
The last time that asteroid 2019 TA7 buzzed Earth from a comparable distance was on October 14, 1904.
The rock will return for another close visit in 2021, and then again in 2023 and 2025. After that, it will disappear for seven years, only to resume its flybys of Earth in 2032.
However, its future trips through our corner of space will carry the asteroid significantly farther away from the planet’s surface. In fact, the rock will never again come as close to Earth as it will on Monday.