Two asteroids to pass extremely close to Earth

2019-07-08 13:25

Two large asteroids will make extremely close passes of Earth over the next couple of days.

While a number of asteroids - classed as Near Earth Objects (NEOs) - pass the Earth on a regular basis, these two will make an exceptionally close flyby.

On Tuesday, an object dubbed 2019 MB4 will pass at just 315 000km from Earth, a closer distance than the moon, which averages 385 000km away from the planet.

"This object is about the same size as Chelyabinsk asteroid of February 15, 2013. A larger asteroid, it was first observed at Pan-STARRS, Haleakala observatory in Hawaii on June 29 and its estimated diameter is between 17m and 38m (55 - 124 feet). Its closest approach to Earth is expected at 07:20 UTC on July 9 at a speed (relative to the Earth) of 7.17km/s," SAAO Science Engagement Astronomer Dr Daniel Cunnama told News24.

READ: Bus-sized asteroid to whiz pass Earth on Saturday

This asteroid is estimated to be 22m long - around half the length of an Airbus A380-800 - the biggest passenger plane in the world.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory data revealed that 2019 NN3 will pass Earth on Wednesday at a distance of just 320 000km. That asteroid is estimated to be between 35m to 77m in length.

Discovery

Asteroid 2019 MB4 is travelling at 7.1km/s (or 25 560km/h) while 2019 NN3 is travelling at 8.84km/s (31 824km/h). A typical rifle bullet travels at about 750m/s (2 700km/h).

Nasa asteroid flybys.

NASA JPL data shows NEOs. (NASA JPL)

Finding asteroids is difficult because they travel fast against the blackness of space, making it difficult for instruments to detect.

"Both asteroids belong to the Amor group of asteroids," said Cunnama.

Other classifications include Apollo NEOs which cross the Earth's orbit, but with a semi-major axis larger than the Earth's, and Atiras orbit between the Earth and the Sun.

Apollo NEOs also cross the earth's orbit, but with a semi-major axis larger than the earth's; Amors orbit outside the earth's orbit, and Atiras orbit between the earth and the sun.

NEOs found

(NASA JPL)

Scientists have discovered about 20 000 NEOs since 1898 though not all of them can be classified as potentially hazardous to Earth.

According to The Watchers, there have been 29 flybys of NEOs which came closer than the moon so far in 2019 - and the most active month was in March which saw eight flybys closer than the moon.

The South African Astronomical Observatory hosts an Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (Atlas) instrument in Sutherland to monitor for hazardous asteroids.

The instrument is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and costs $3.8m.

A South African team is actively involved in the search for potentially hazardous NEOs.

"We currently have a small team of just a few astronomers focused on asteroids but we expect this to grow when we get our own Atlas telescope in the next two years," said Cunnama.

GET THE NEWS at your fingertips and download the News24 app for Android here now. Get it for your iPhone here.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    nasa  |  astronomy  |  space
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.