A tiny asteroid will swing by for a very close brush with Earth on Thursday, October 31, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have announced. The space rock is known as asteroid 2019 UF9 and is believed to measure 46 feet in diameter at the most. The rock will safely zoom past our planet tomorrow afternoon, passing at a close distance of just 483,600 miles from the Earth’s surface. To put that into perspective, that’s exactly 2.04 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
According to a report released today by the JPL, the asteroid is expected to approach Earth at 5:43 p.m. ET tomorrow. The rock is traveling through space at a cruising speed of nearly 23,000 mph, or about 30 times the speed of sound. About four hours after its close encounter with planet Earth, the object will make a quick pass by the moon, barreling past its cratered surface at a distance of 669,600 miles.
Interestingly enough, this is the second 46-foot asteroid to skim so close to Earth in the last few days. On Sunday, an equally sized, newly discovered space rock dubbed 2019 UD7 hurtled past our planet at 30,100 mph, coming within 446,400 miles of Earth — or 1.88 times the distance to the moon, as reported by The Inquisitr at the time.
Similar to 2019 UD7, asteroid 2019 UF9 was also recently discovered. The rock was first picked up by NASA asteroid trackers six days ago, on October 24, and has been kept under close observation by the JPL ever since. The asteroid orbits the sun once every 520 days or so — or about 1.4 years — and follows an orbit that occasionally brings it through our corner of space.
Based on its orbital path, the rock was classified as an Apollo-type asteroid. As NASA explains, asteroids of this class zip around the solar system on an orbit that allows them not only to approach our planet, but to also intersect Earth’s orbit. As such, Apollo asteroids are labeled as “Earth-crossing.”
After studying its trajectory around the sun and comparing direct observations of the asteroid with computer models that plotted its course through the solar system, NASA was able to pinpoint the time of its impending close approach, as well as to calculate how close to Earth it can get. The space agency assures that the asteroid poses no risk of hitting Earth tomorrow and will harmlessly pass by our planet and the moon as it circles the sun.
Tomorrow’s flyby of Earth will be the closest one of all time for asteroid 2019 UF9. The rock previously visited Earth two other times — in 1936, when it passed at a formidable distance of 15.3 million miles, and then again in 2017, when it buzzed Earth from a staggering 22.9 million miles away. Over the next 171 years, the asteroid will perform five more flybys of Earth, with the next one expected to occur in the year 2078. However, its future trips through our corner of the solar system will only bring the asteroid as close as 4.7 million miles of Earth.