On Sunday, Earth will be visited by a fairly considerable asteroid. Known as the asteroid 2019 LC5, this specific space rock was only discovered earlier this year, but is a frequent traveler in our corner of space.
First seen at the end of May, the space rock was classified as Near-Earth Object (NEO). As such, it has been closely watched by NASA's Center for the Study of Earth Objects (CNEOS), which has kept a close eye on its trajectory and proximity to planet Earth.
As the CNEOS explains, NEOs are celestial objects, such as comets or asteroids, "which have been pushed by the gravitational pull of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth's neighborhood."
"Note that a "near" astronomical passage can be very distant in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of miles. "
After monitoring the orbital path of the asteroid in the last 14 days, in a total of 37 observations, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have concluded that 2019 LC5 is an Apollo-type asteroid. This means that space rock can not only approach our planet on its journey around the sun, but may also occasionally cross the Earth's orbit, NASA points out.
The remarkable thing about the asteroid 2019 LC5 is that it regularly oscillates through the Earth twice a year – once in late June and once in early November. And, according to a recent JPL report, the goal is the first of its biennial semi-annual flights this weekend.
Data released earlier this week by JPL show that asteroid 2019 LC5 will be approaching Earth tomorrow afternoon. It is estimated that the space rock measures between 105 feet and 233 feet in diameter and will rock to its close encounter with the Earth at 5:18 pm. ET on June 23.
During the time of its closest approach to the surface of the planet, the asteroid will be rising in the space at a vertiginous speed of more than 24,700 mph. While an object of this size and speed could potentially cause serious concern if it comes too close for comfort, NASA ensures that tomorrow's flyby will be perfectly safe.
In fact, the asteroid will pass harmlessly by us at a considerable distance from the surface of the planet, reaching only 3.2 million kilometers from Earth. To put this into perspective, this is almost 14 times the distance between Earth and Moon.
Within a few months, the asteroid 2019 LC5 will return for its second visit of the year. The next flyby of planet Earth is expected to occur on Nov. 1 and bring only the space rock 35.7 million kilometers from Earth's surface.
Curiously, the object follows the same pattern every year that passes through our corner of the solar system. Their summer flights are much closer to the planet than their subsequent visits to autumn. This was the case of the coming meetings last year as well.
The same thing will also happen in 2022, when the asteroid 2019 LC5 will arrive for another set of semiannual visits.