The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 GN, is headed past Earth on a so-called “Earth Close Approach “ trajectory. NASA’s asteroid trackers predict the space rock will skim the Earth in the wee morning hours of Saturday, April 13. Astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have further narrowed the flyby down to 2.08am UK time (1.08am UTC). This moment will mark the asteroid’s closest possible approach to the Earth as it barrels around the Sun.
And when this happens, the asteroid is expected to peak at speeds of around 26,574.8mph (42,768kph) or 11.88km per second.
NASA said the space rock will approach the Earth tonight from a distance of 0.00443 astronomical units (au).
One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km), which is the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Asteroid GN will trim this down to just 411,794 miles or 662,718.6km.
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In other words, the asteroid will pass from an incredibly close distance of 1.72 Lunar Distances (LD) or 1.72 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
But the good news is there is no immediate risk of the asteroid striking our home planet anytime soon.
Asteroid GN is a so-called “Near-Earth Object” or NEO, which means it occasionally crosses paths with Earth’s objects.
NEOs are all comets and asteroids zipping through Earth’s corner of space.
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The European Space Agency (ESA) explained: “The word NEO stands for Near-Earth Object, indicating a small body of the Solar System which can come into the Earth neighbourhood.
“A broad classification of NEOs distinguishes NECs, Near-Earth Comets, from, NEAs, Near-Earth Asteroid, which constitute the vast majority of NEOs.”
According to NASA, the large bulk of asteroids dashing past the Earth have been nudged into the inner circles of the solar system by nearby planets.
Many of these rocky objects have formed in the inner rings of the system between the planet Mars and Jupiter.
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NASA’s JPL estimates Asteroid GN measures somewhere in the range of 32.5ft to 72.2ft (9.9m to 22m) in diameter.
The asteroid might not be big but its passage is close enough for NASA’s asteroid-tracking systems to keep an eye on it.
The US space agency said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”