The imposing asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 CN2, will make a so-called “Earth Close Approach” today. NASA’s astronomers have narrowed the passage down to just before 11am GMT (UTC), with an uncertainty of around four minutes. As it swings by, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, estimates Asteroid CN2 will near-miss the Earth from a distance similar to that between the Earth and the Moon. The incredibly close flyby comes exactly one week after the JPL first spotted the space rock on its radars.
According to the NASA research centre, Asteroid CN2 was first observed on Monday, February 4, 2019.
NASA has since calculated the space rock’s orbital trajectory to determine CN2 has been approaching Earth since at least October 1901.
This happens because the asteroid is a so-called “Near-Earth Object” – an asteroid or comet on an orbit path closely crossing that of Earth’s.
NASA explained: “Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
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“Composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system while most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.”
Today, Asteroid CN2 is expected to make its closest approach of our home world since its first known flyby of Earth.
At its closest, the JPL estimates CN2 will reach Earth from a distance of 0.00377 astronomical units (au).
One astronomical unit approximates the average distance between the Earth and the Sun – about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
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Asteroid CN2 will cut this down considerably to just 350,443 miles (536,984 km).
This is the equivalent of 1.47 Lunar Distances (LD) or 1.47-times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Thankfully, there is nothing to fear from the asteroid’s passage because it will not hit Earth.
But the space rock is big enough for scientists to pay attention to its trajectory.
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NASA’s calculations show CN2 measures somewhere in the range of 20.3ft to 45.9ft (6.3m to 14m) in diameter.
At the upper end of the estimate, the space rock is just slightly longer than a London double-decker bus.
The asteroid is also estimated to be about seven times as long as a Queen Size Bed and 3.4-times longer than a Volkswagen Beetle.
After the asteroid leaves Earth’s corner of space later today, CN2 will make a close approach of the Moon around 6.46pm GMT today.
Asteroid CN2 will then visit the Earth again on October 23 in 2024 and July 1 in 2025.