The space rock known as 2019 UG11 was first observed just ten days ago on October 21, according to the International Astronomical Union. The asteroid is 17 metres long, making it longer than a female humpback whale – the larger of the two sexes. Now the asteroid has made a rapid approach towards Earth and is set to come perilously close on November 1.
Travelling at an astonishing 10.1 kilometres per second, or 36,360 kilometres per hour, NASA has said the asteroid will swing by at just 0.5 lunar distances (LD) of our planet.
One LD is the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 384,400 km – so 2019 UG11 will come within 192,000 kilometres of our planet on October 29.
While this may seem like a sizeable distance, it is close enough for NASA to sit up and take notice and class it as a Near Earth Object (NEO) and allow the space agency to study the history of our solar system.
NASA set on its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website: “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.
“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.
“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.
“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”
At 17 metres long, the asteroid will bring back memories of the Chelyabinsk meteor.
READ MORE: Interstellar comet is carrying ALIEN water from another solar system
NASA is currently studying Asteroid Bennu, where its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft arrived last year.
Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length.
NASA fears that the asteroid, which has the potential to wipe out a country on Earth, could hit our planet within the next 120 years, with the next close flyby in 2135.