NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has detected a massive asteroid that’s expected to pass dangerously close to Earth today. Asteroids that approach the planet at a very close distance pose a threat to Earth due to the gravitational forces that affect them.

The approaching asteroid has been labeled by NASA as 2019 MT2. According to the space agency, this near-Earth Object was first observed on June 30. Its upcoming approach is currently the only recorded instance of the asteroid’s fly by with Earth. Hopefully, CNEOS will be able to gather more data on the asteroid in order to plot its past and future courses.

According to CNEOS, 2019 MT2 has a maximum diameter of almost 102 feet, making it significantly longer than the distance between baseball diamond bases. The agency noted that the asteroid is currently traveling at a speed of 11.04 kilometers per second or about 25,000 miles per hour.

2019 MT2 is expected to zip past Earth on July 8 at 1:15 pm ST. During its approach, its closest distance to Earth will be about 0.01118 astronomical units or roughly 1.6 million kilometers from the planet’s center. This is equivalent to about three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Although Earth is safe from 2019 MT2 for now, there’s a chance this asteroid could hit the planet in the future due to its current path. As previous studies have shown, there are certain areas in space known as keyholes. These are areas that are affected by the gravitational pull of nearby planets and other large cosmic bodies.

If an object passes through a keyhole, it will get affected by the gravitational forces in the area, causing it to change its path into a possible direct collision course.

In the case of 2019 MT2, since it is expected to pass near Earth and the Moon, the gravitational pull from these two cosmic bodies could significantly affect the asteroid’s orbit and nudge it into a different course. This means the asteroid has a chance of ending up on a direct path towards Earth during its future visit.  

asteroids_passing_earth Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. Pictured; an artistic illustration of an asteroid flying by Earth. Photo: NASA