NASA asteroid tracker: Look out as 19,300MPH asteroid skims the Earth TOMORROW
The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 FF, is heading towards a so-called “Earth Close Approach”. NASA predicts Asteroid FF will approach our home planet around 3.21pm GMT (UTC) on Saturday, March 21. This moment will mark the asteroid’s closest flyby of Earth since September 2018. And when it approaches, the asteroid will hurtle through space at breakneck speeds of 8.64km per second or 19,327mph (31,104kph).
Asteroid FF is an Aten-type NEO or Near-Earth Object on a trajectory, which periodically cuts into Earth’s own orbit of the Sun.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) estimates FF has been visiting Earth since at least 1944.
But the asteroid was only discovered this week on March 18, 2019, and tomorrow it will make an incredibly close shave.
At its closest, the space rock will skim the planet from a distance of 0.00808 astronomical units (au).
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Just one astronomical unit measures around 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Asteroid FF is expected to cut this down to just 751,082 miles or 1.2 million kilometres.
This is roughly the equivalent of 3.14 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
NEOs are all comets and asteroids which have been nudged by the gravitational forces of the solar system into Earth’s neighbourhood.
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NASA said: “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.
“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.”
Based on NASA’s orbital calculation, the space rock flies around the Sun on a path that intersects the orbits of Earth and Mars and does not extend past Mars.
NASA’s JPL also estimates the asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 49.2ft to 108.3ft (15m to 33m) across.
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At the upper stage of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is about four times as long as a London double-decker bus.
Towards the lower end of NASA’s scale, Asteroid FF is about 3.6 times longer than a Volkswagen Beetle car.
After the asteroid swings past our planet on Saturday, the space rock will cross paths with Earth again on October 9, 2022, and March 19, 2023.
The asteroid will then pass Venus on September 24, 2026.