Planet Earth is in for another close encounter with a cluster of asteroids later this week. After a remarkable close brush with a swarm of eight asteroids on October 8, four other space rocks are gearing up to buzz past Earth on Friday, October 18. Currently making their way toward Earth, the asteroids are set to reach our planet’s vicinity on Friday morning, NASA has announced. However, the rocks are traveling at different speeds and won’t cruise by Earth as a group, but rather swing by our planet individually, at different hours throughout the morning.
According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), the four asteroids due to shoot past Earth on Friday differ in size and velocity. Furthermore, they will each pass at a different distance from the planet’s surface when they come swinging by on October 18. However, the rocks share a couple of similar traits — aside from the date of their impending flyby of Earth, that is.
Firstly, they are part of a larger haul of asteroids that was only recently discovered, all of them being picked up by NASA asteroid trackers within the past two weeks. The first two asteroids to wander through our corner of space on Friday were spotted just last week, on October 8 and October 7; the other two were discovered the previous week, on October 3 and October 6.
Secondly, these rocks all zip through the solar system on an orbit similar to that of asteroid 1862 Apollo, a nearly mile-wide space rock that orbits the sun once every 651 days. As such, the objects were classified as Apollo-type asteroids. As NASA explains, Apollo asteroids are known for their potential of being “Earth-crossing.”
These asteroids circle the sun on an orbital path that allows them not only to approach Earth, but also to occasionally intersect the planet’s orbit.
The first rock to fly past Earth on Friday is an Apollo asteroid known as 2019 TW6. This particular asteroid orbits the sun once every 421 days, often passing by our planet as it treks the inner solar system in its journey around the giant star. Asteroid 2019 TW6 is estimated to be around 101 feet wide, per CNEOS. The rock is expected to approach Earth in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning, safely passing by our planet at 2:25 a.m. ET.
During the moment of its close approach, asteroid 2019 TW6 will be traveling at a cruising speed of a little over 12,500 mph, or nearly 16.3 times the speed of sound. The rock will harmlessly fly past Earth a safe distance of 3.5 million miles. To put that into perspective, that’s close to 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Interestingly enough, this will be the closest that asteroid 2019 TW6 has gotten to Earth in more than half a century. The last time the rock passed at a comparable distance to Earth was on October 18, 1966 — 53 years to the date from its upcoming close approach. The asteroid will return for another visit next year, and then again in 2028 and 2034.
About an hour after asteroid 2019 TW6, Earth will be buzzed by a larger and faster space rock known as 2019 TP5. The asteroid is believed to be around 157 feet across and zips around the sun once every 961 days, or 2.6 years. The rock will swoop in for its close approach to Earth at 3:36 a.m. ET, hurtling past our planet at a break-neck speed of more than 41,600 mph. Unlike its predecessor, asteroid 2019 TP5 will creep in a lot closer to the planet’s surface, coming within 1.95 million miles of Earth – or a little over eight times the distance to the moon. This will be the closest asteroid approach of the day.
Following this week’s flyby, asteroid 2019 TP5 will disappear for quite some time, steering clear of our celestial neighborhood for more than a century-and-a-half. The rock won’t double back for another visit until the year 2188, when it’s expected to whiz past Earth from 4.6 million miles away.
The third asteroid to shoot past Earth on Friday is a 121-foot space rock dubbed 2019 TA1. The asteroid completes a full orbit around the sun in 1.5 years. According to NASA calculations, the rock will swing by just in time for the morning coffee, quietly flying past Earth at 8:51 a.m. ET.
As it passes past our planet at 14,300 mph, the asteroid will approach within 3.8 million miles of Earth, or nearly 15.5 times the lunar distance. Of the four asteroids buzzing Earth on October 18, 2019 TA1 will pass the farthest from the planet’s surface. The rock is not expected to return for the foreseeable future.
The final celestial visitor to traipse through our corner of the solar system on Friday is an Apollo asteroid about the size of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Measuring a little over 311 feet in diameter, the rock is the largest of the bunch — as well as the fastest of the entire cluster. Dubbed asteroid 2019 TM7, the object goes around the sun once every 982 days, or nearly 2.5 years.
On Friday, the rock will barrel past Earth at a phenomenal speed of over 53,100 mph, approaching Earth about two hours after its predecessor. The rock will reach its closest point to Earth at 10:41 a.m. ET, dashing past our planet from nearly 2.6 million miles away. This means that, during its close encounter with Earth, the Statue of Liberty-sized asteroid will pass at nearly 11 times the distance to the moon. The rock is not expected to return any time soon.
The multi-asteroid flyby comes just one week after a five-asteroid cluster darted past Earth on October 12. Another small group of asteroids is set to swing by our planet the following day, on October 19.