Earlier today, a large, recently discovered asteroid darted past our planet during a so-called “close Earth approach” that brought the celestial body within a few million miles from the planet’s surface, NASA announced.
Known as asteroid 2019 UB, the space rock is believed to be so large that it could potentially dwarf the Statue of Liberty in New York while rivaling the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. The asteroid buzzed Earth at 8:39 a.m. ET on October 18, safely passing through our celestial neighborhood at more than 37,000 mph. As the entity hurtled past our planet at break-neck speed, the rock passed within 2.89 million miles of Earth. To put that into perspective, that is a little more than 12 times the distance between our planet and the moon.
Asteroid 2019 UB wasn’t the only space rock to swing by Earth on Friday. Four other asteroids cruised by our planet earlier this morning, coming as close as 1.95 million miles from the planet’s surface.
The interesting aspect of asteroid 2019 UB is that the space rock nearly slipped past NASA’s radar. According to a report released today by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the object was picked up by NASA asteroid trackers on October 17 — one day before performing its close flyby of Earth.
Equally noteworthy is the fact that Friday’s celestial encounter with Earth was the first and the last for the wayfaring space rock. The asteroid will complete a full orbit around the sun in 1,150 days, or a little more than three years. However, the entity has never before passed through our corner of the solar system, making its first-ever trip through our neck of the cosmic woods on October 18.
Based on its orbit around the sun, asteroid 2019 UB was classified in JPL records as an Apollo-type asteroid. As NASA explains, Apollo asteroids are known for their potential of being “Earth-crossing.” Named after asteroid 1862 Apollo, space rocks of this class zip through the solar system on an orbital path that allows them to approach Earth and to occasionally intersect the planet’s orbit.
As far as near-Earth asteroids go, 2019 UB is quite hefty. Data from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) places the rock within a size range of between 226 feet and 492 feet in diameter. At the upper end of NASA’s size estimate, the rock is even larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which measures around 450 feet in height. At the same time, the asteroid is a little more than 1.5 times the size of the Statue of Liberty, which stands about 310 feet tall.
While certainly quite imposing, the asteroid 2019 UB is not the largest space rock to visit Earth in October. In fact, the rock pales in comparison to the massive 3,250 foot Apollo asteroid due to buzz Earth next week, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.