Two large asteroids are set to sail safely past Earth next tomorrow, according to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
The first of the two space rocks, known as, 2019 QS—is set to make its closest approach to our planet at 2:31 a.m. EDT on August 28, when it will come within 0.01407 astronomical units (the mean distance between the Earth and the sun,) or 1,307,888 miles of our planet.
The asteroid—which is estimated to measure anywhere between 98 and 223 feet in diameter—will be traveling at speeds of around 50,000 miles per hour relative to the Earth.
The second space rock, called 2019 OU1, will makes its closest approach just a few hours later at 6:36 a.m. EDT, at which point it will be around 0.00687 astronomical units (AU) or 638,606 miles from the Earth.
This is the sixth closest approach to our planet by any near-Earth object (NEO) in the next year, NASA data shows. In fact, the space rock—which measures anywhere between 250 and 558 feet in diameter—will speed past at a distance which is just over two-and-a-half times greater than Earth-moon distance. The CNEOS estimates that 2019 OU1 will be traveling at speeds of around 29,000 miles per hour.
2019 OU1 will not make another close approach to the Earth until December 2080—when it will only come within about 20 million miles of our planet, at most. And we’ll have to wait even longer for another close approach by 2019 QS. The space rock’s orbit will not take it close to our planet for more than a century after tomorrow.
The term “near-Earth object” refers to any asteroid or comet whose orbit takes it within 121 million miles of our sun, and within around 30 million miles of Earth.
The CNEOS computes the orbits of known NEOs to determine whether any have a chance of striking the Earth at some point in the future. Those which are predicted to have a minimum approach distance of less than 0.05 astronomical units and potentially measure more than 460 feet in diameter—like 2019 OU1—are deemed “potentially hazardous.”
Even though we know about thousands of these “potentially hazardous” objects, at present, researchers are not aware of any that have a significant chance of colliding with our planet in the foreseeable future.
“There are some asteroids that have an exceedingly small chance of impacting Earth over the next couple centuries,” CNEOS Manager Paul Chodas told Newsweek. “Asteroid Bennu, which is currently being visited by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, currently has a one-in-a-few-thousand chance of impacting a couple of centuries from now, but as we continue to track this asteroid, I expect that chance to drop to zero. None of the other known asteroids has a significant chance of impacting Earth over the next century.”
To date, scientists have identified more than 20,000 NEOs—the vast majority of which are asteroids—and new ones are being discovered at a rate of about 30 each week.