KEY POINTS

  • NASA detected two asteroids approaching Earth
  • One of the asteroids measures over 130 feet wide
  • Both asteroids have Earth-crossing orbits

NASA’s asteroid tracking system is currently monitoring two asteroids that are currently approaching Earth. According to the data collected by the agency, the approaching asteroids follow Earth-intersecting natural orbits.

The incoming asteroids are being tracked through NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). As indicated in CNEOS’ database, the first asteroid that’s expected to fly past Earth tomorrow is called 2019 AC3.

According to CNEOS, 2019 AC3 measures about 69 feet wide. The agency estimated that the asteroid is currently making its way around the Sun toward Earth at an average velocity of almost 8,000 miles per hour.

Trailing behind 2019 AC3 is an asteroid identified as 2020 MK3. Compared to 2019 AC3, 2020 MK3 is a much bigger asteroid. According to CNEOS, this space rock has an estimated diameter of about 135 feet. It is currently moving across space at a speed of almost 19,000 miles per hour.

After studying the trajectories of both asteroids, NASA learned that 2019 AC3 and 2020 MK3 follow orbits that extend beyond that of Earth. Both space rocks are also known to cross Earth’s orbit as they complete their cycles around the Sun.

The main difference between the two asteroids is their orbital axis. As indicated in NASA’s orbit diagram, 2019 AC3 has a wider orbital axis than Earth, making it an Apollo asteroid. 2020 MK3, on the other hand, follows a smaller orbital axis than the planet. Due to the nature of its orbit, 2020 MK3 has been labeled as an Aten asteroid.

According to CNEOS, 2019 AC3 is expected to safely fly past Earth on Wednesday (July 1) at 6:10 a.m. EDT. During its approach, the asteroid will be about 0.02696 astronomical units from the planet’s center, which is equivalent to a distance of about 2.5 million miles away.

As for 2020 MK3, CNEOS noted that this asteroid would approach Earth at a much closer distance compared to 2019 AC3’s visit. 2020 MK3 will zip past Earth on July 1 at 3:27 p.m. EDT. It will be about 0.00474 astronomical units or 440,000 miles away from Earth during its flyby.

Asteroid Image: Artist illustration of an asteroid heading for the Earth Photo: Pixabay