Published: Sun, May 26, 2019
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

NASA watching asteroid MILE-wide skim past Earth tomorrow

NASA watching asteroid MILE-wide skim past Earth tomorrow

The two asteroids will pass closest to Earth at 7:05 pm EDT (1105 GMT), when they'll be just 3,219,955 miles (5,182,015 km) from the planet's surface.

A almost mile-wide asteroid with its own "moon" will make a pass by Earth on Saturday traveling about 48,000 miles per hour. For context, this figure is about 13.5 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.

While the near-Earth object is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid, there will be a cushy 3.2 million miles between Earth and the walnut-shaped space rock during its closest approach.

NASA calculate that any space rock larger than one to two kilometres would have the potential to wipe out life on Earth.

It has also been defined as a "potentially hazardous object", meaning any NEO that has a (typically small) chance of colliding with Earth-i.e., their predicted minimum approach distance is less than 4.6 million miles-and is greater than 460 feet in diameter.

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The European Space Agency (ESA) on May 14 shared an image of the 1999 KW4, "observed from the ground for the first time in the current apparition, emerging from solar conjunction", it published on its official website. The small moon-which orbits at a distance of 1.6 miles every 16 hours-is thought to be around the third of that size, EarthSky reported.

After its close approach this weekend, the next projected flyby of Earth from 1999 KW4 is set for May 25, 2036.

And the asteroid's next close flybys falls on May 26, 2020, and May 31, 2021. They recommend heading over to EarthSky to learn how you can see 1999 KW4 for yourself. Even at its brightest, however, it will be around 12th magnitude, which is about 250 times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye.

The asteroid, which was discovered 20 years ago, is dubbed by NASA as Asteroid 1999 KW4, and is expected to be visible until May 27. This will be the closest that a binary system has ever approached Earth.

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