The asteroid, dubbed 2019 RX2, is one of many so-called “Near-Earth Objects” or NEOs dangerously approaching our planet. The asteroid is currently flying on a “Close Earth Approach” trajectory that will bring it near Earth on Thursday, September 12. The flyby comes just six days after NASA first observed the asteroid’s orbit on September 6. NASA is now certain the rock will approach us around 4.19am BST (3.19am UTC) tomorrow.
Asteroid 2019 RX2 is an Apollo-type space rock orbiting the Sun within the inner circles of the solar system.
The asteroid follows a trajectory similar to Asteroid 1862 Apollo and does not fly far out beyond Earth’s orbit.
Occasionally, NEOs like RX2 will cross paths with Earth at various points in time.
Based on NASA’s calculations, the asteroid already approached Earth six times before its initial observation this year.
The first flyby occurred 100 years ago on December 9, 1919.
After tomorrow’s close approach, the space rock will appear in Earth’s corner of space again in 2024 and 2063.
Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth
NASA estimates Asteroid RX2 measures somewhere in the range of 18ft to 39ft (5.6m to 12m) in diameter.
On average, car-sized rocks like this strike the Earth once a year.
Thankfully, the asteroid is small enough to safely burn up in the atmosphere without hitting the ground.
Any bigger and the space rock could cause serious damage like the rock that exploded over Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast in 2013.
The so-called Chelyabinsk Meteor only measured about 65.6ft (20m) across but its blast blew out windows and injured more than 1,000 people with shards of glass.
The good news is, NASA does not expect Asteroid RX2 to strike the planet tomorrow.
The asteroid will approach our planet at speeds of around 5.34km per second or 11,945mph (19,224kph).
At its closest, the rock will come flying by from a distance of 0.01848 astronomical units.
A single astronomical measures about 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance from the Sun to Earth.
This means the rock will miss our planet by around 1.7 million miles (2.7 million km) – about seven times the distance to the Moon.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”
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