An asteroid twice as big as the bolide that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013 is expected to whiz by our planet on 22 March at a distance that is closer to Earth than the Moon.
Although the distance that it is going to fly by us is considered to be safe enough, there are a few nuances about the celestial body that make it rather unique.
Asteroid 2019 EA2, which could be up to 128 feet (39 meters) wide, is a rare rock making a close flyby that is also big enough for scientists to have spotted well beforehand. Also, it has been found to be moving at an unusually slow pace of 5 kilometres per second (11,185 mph), which makes it easier to detect. According to NASA, EA2 will pass us at about 8/10 the distance between here and the Moon.
Meanwhile, the academic supervisor at the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Shustov, has called the flyby a far cry from making an interesting sight for professionals.
“For us, it is not a phenomenon but a casual event”, the astronomer remarked, adding that celestial bodies between 10 and 60 metres in length fly past at a distance shorter than the one between Earth and the Moon about 10 times a year.
“These are big rocks. Smaller ones fly past even more frequently. This is an ordinary thing. If it flew 20,000 kilometres from us, that would be interesting, it would be really close”, Shustov noted, adding that it is the media that make a bit of hype out of such news, viewing it as a story opportunity.