To conclude what has been a busy summer for NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), not one but two asteroids are set to scream by the Earth Wednesday, one of which was only spotted less than a week ago.
In news which may exacerbate concerns over our lack of planetary defenses, asteroid 2019 QS was first spotted on August 21. Measuring between 108 and 240ft (33 – 73 meters) in diameter and travelling at a speed of 49,709 mph, the space rock could do some serious damage if it smashed into our planet.
Thankfully, however, NASA boffins spotted the inbound asteroid in the nick of time and were able to calculate that it will pass us by harmlessly in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
2019 QS will be making its debut close Earth approach at a distance of roughly 5.48 times the distance to the moon.
The second of Wednesday’s close fly-by visitors, asteroid 2019 OU1 will pass by shortly afterwards. Measuring an estimated 560ft in diameter (roughly the size of the Washington Monument) it will shoot past at a distance of less than a million miles away and a speed of 29,000mph.
According to NASA, which keeps an up to date database of all known NEOs, no known asteroid poses a significant risk of impact within the coming century but the fact that 2019 QS was only spotted a week ago shows our planetary early warning defenses could do with some reinforcements.
The greatest estimated threat at present is posed by asteroid 2009 FD, which has a 1 in 714 chance of hitting Earth (0.2 percent probability) some time in 2185, so there’s plenty of time for the world’s space forces to deploy.
The world-famous asteroid Bennu has just a 1/2,700 chance of hitting the Earth between 2175 and 2195.
On September 14, asteroid 200 QW7, which measures between 290 meters and 650 meters long in diameter (two Empire State Buildings), will fly past the Earth at 14,400 miles per hour and will pass 3.3 million miles from Earth.