Asteroids the size of planes will fly past Earth today, within hours of each other
- Four asteroids are scheduled to fly past the planet today, and three of them are as big as aeroplanes.
- The four asteroids will be approaching the planet within hours of each other.
- The smallest of the four will only be a million kilometres from Earth.
Asteroid (2019 XB), (2019 WT3) and (2019 WO2) — between 30 to 60 meters in size — will harmlessly zip past the planet, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Asteroid Watch.
The fourth space object, Asteroid (2019 XY) was first spotted by astronomers on 3 December 2019. It’s smaller than the rest and it will be the first to fly by.
Measuring only 8.7 meters — about the size of the bus — its approach will be closer than the rest, a mere million kilometres from Earth. Even though that’s around three times as far as the Moon — it’s in Earth’s next-door neighbourhood astronomically.
This the closest Asteroid (2019 XY) is ever going to get to Earth. Data with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL) shows that its next flyby is scheduled in 2145 — and the asteroid will be considerably further away.
Six hours later
Six hours after the first fly-by, Asteroid (2019 XB) — the biggest of the four at 65 meters— will be closing in on the planet. Even though it’s nearly six times bigger than its predecessor, it will also be six times as far away.
Other asteroids earlier this year — which were the same size, like Asteroid (2019 GA) and (2015 HM10) — were significantly closer.
The asteroid’s bigger size also implies that it will be travelling slower. Where Asteroid (2019 XY) will be blasting through space at 13.0 kilometres per second (kmps), Asteroid (2019 XB) will only be travelling at half the speed — at 7.93 kmps.
Four hours later
After four more hours, another plane-sized asteroid — Asteroid (2019 WT3) — will whiz past Earth at 11.04 kmps. But, it doesn’t pose a threat as it is 3.7 million kilometres away from Earth.
Asteroid (2019 WG3), which is nearly the same size as Asteroid (2019 WT3), was going a lot faster when it flew past Earth at nearly the same distance on 12 November 2019.
Asteroid (2019 EN) was also flying markedly faster — despite being thrice the size — when it passed the Earth at on 27 March 2019, at a distance of 3.7 million kilometres.
Five hours to the finale
The final asteroid of the day, Asteroid (2019 WO2), will be flying closer to Earth than its predecessor and at around the same speed as the second visitor, Asteroid (2019 XB).
The only other asteroids to fly past the planet at a distance of 1.8 million kilometres within the past year were moderately smaller. Though some, like the Asteroid (2019 CA3), zoomed past at speeds reaching 19.25 kmps — considerably faster than Asteroid (2019 WO2)’s 7.54 kmps.
While these asteroids might not seem like much of a threat, a 300-metre asteroid is scheduled to approach Earth on 20 December 2019 followed by a 400-metre object on 26 December 2019.
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