Earlier today, planet Earth was boomed by a tiny asteroid that was entering incredibly close to the surface of the planet, scientists at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reported. Passing through space at just over 19,300 mph, the minus cosmic rock passed closer to the moon, creeping within just 65 100 miles of Earth.
To put this into perspective, the moon sits an average distance of 238,900 miles from Earth. This means that during the extremely close flight of Earth, the tiny rock flew only 0.28 times the distance to the moon.
The travelogue cosmic rock approached Earth in the early afternoon, reaching its closest point to Earth at 1: 28 ET. Hours before its extremely close encounter with Earth, the asteroid swayed from the moon, traveling 1
Today's proximity to Miss was one of the closest asteroid meetings of the whole year. While the Earth has seen quite an impressive number of near-asteroid approaches over the last few months, very few rocks have wandered so close to the planet's surface. Among the latest asteroid flyovers that have sent cosmic rocks flying closer to the moon in the last few months, the most notable is a 33-foot asteroid that has rolled across Earth at 0.48 times the lunar distance in early September. Just recently, a larger 91-foot asteroid transmitted Earth from mid-distance to the moon on October 31st.
According to JPL, today's celestial visitor is known as the 2019 VA asteroid. The rock has almost slipped past NASA's radar since it was spotted just one day before its close break with Earth. Although the asteroid was only recently discovered, NASA had just enough time to calculate its orbit and determine that the rock did not pose a threat to Earth, even though it was passing so close to the planet's surface.
The asteroid is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), in particular an Apollo type asteroid. As NASA explains, NEOs are celestial objects, such as comets or asteroids, orbiting about 91 million and 121 million miles of sun. This means that as they orbit the giant star, NEOs can travel about 30 million miles from Earth's orbit, and as close to the planet's surface as several times the distance to the moon – or even closer, as was the case with the 2019 VA asteroid .
While the NEO label indicates proximity to Earth, the Apollo designation on the rock refers to the characteristics of its orbit. Called the asteroid 1862 Apollo – an almost kilometer long rock that orbits the sun once every 650 days, the Apollo asteroids are known for their potential to "cross the Earth." Asteroids of this class orbit the sun, which allows them to
As for NEO, the 2019 VA asteroid is relatively small. The scale is estimated to be at least 18 feet wide and can measure up to 42.6 feet in diameter, according to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Objects Research Center (CNEOS).
The asteroid orbits the sun once every 1090 days or nearly three years; Earlier, the rock visited Earth at the end of 2013, when it reached only 1.1 million miles from the planet's surface. The asteroid is not expected to return in the foreseeable future.