Three huge asteroids expected to fly past Earth, one closer than the Moon, on 24 July

2019 OD is expected to fly past Earth at a distance of 3,53,050 kilometres, which is closer to us than the Moon.


In a reminder of how chaotic it can get in our galactic neighbourhood, three asteroids are expected to make fly-bys of Earth on 24 July. The closest of these asteroids — called 2019 OD — is expected to fly past our Earth at a distance of 3,53,050 kilometres, which is fairly close in astronomical terms. To put things in perspective, the Moon (which is ~3.84 lakh kilometres away) will be further away from the Earth than asteroid 2019 OD will be at its closest during the fly-by.

2019 OD, which was discovered just three weeks ago by NASA, is expected to zip past the Earth at 1.31 pm UTC (7.01 pm IST). At its widest point, the asteroid is 394 feet, and travelling at dizzying speeds of roughly 69,000 km per hour. That said, NASA is yet to tag the asteroid as hazardous, as it poses an extremely low risk of hitting Earth during its flyby.

Three huge asteroids expected to fly past Earth, one closer than the Moon, on 24 July

The two other asteroids visiting our region in the solar system are a 361-feet-wide rock called 2015 HM10 and the 561-foot-wide 2019 OE, both of which NASA predicts will make close approaches of Earth on 24 July. While 2015 HM10 is moving at speeds of 34,182 kmph, the asteroid 2019 OE is expected to be the farthest of the three asteroids, expected to fly past Earth from 9,61,914 kilometres away.

Fly by of 2019 OD in NASA JPL s orbit viewer. Image: NASA JPL

Fly by of 2019 OD in the SSD orbit-viewer software. Image: NASA JPL

As they orbit the Sun, near-Earth objects (NEOs) can occasionally have close encounters with Earth. A "close" passage in astronomical terms can be extremely far away in human terms: millions, even tens of millions of kilometres away. However, around 30 new near-asteroids are recorded and examined by NASA in its Near-Earth object database, maintained by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The software predicted close approaches to Earth for all known NEOs, in both the past and the future, and tabulates the close approach data organized by time.

Over 19,000 near-earth asteroids have been mapped and studied by the Centre as of 2019, according to a report. NASA characterizes these asteroids using optical and radio telescopes to find out their size, shape, rotation, composition and trajectory.

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