A bus-size asteroid will zoom between Earth and the moon today (Oct. 19), but poses no threat of hitting our planet.
The recently discovered space rock is designated asteroid 2017 TD6. It will fly by Earth at a range of 119,000 miles (191,000 kilometers) when it makes its closest approach, which is calculated to occur at 2:53 p.m. EDT (1853 GMT). The average distance between the Earth and the moon, for comparison, is about 238,855 miles (384,400 km).
Asteroid 2017 TD6 is estimated to be between 32 and 72 feet (9.9 to 22 meters) wide, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). In comparison, the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 was determined to be approximately 65 feet (20 m) wide. [In Images: Potentially Dangerous Asteroids]
The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center reported that several observatories have observed 2017 TD6 in the last few days. Thoseinclude the Schiaparelli Observatory in Italy, Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii, and Mount Lemmon Survey in Arizona.
This flyby comes on the heels of another really close shave of Earth, by asteroid 2012 TC4. That space rock safely flew about 26,000 miles (42,000 km) above Antarctica on Oct. 12.
As with 2012 TC4, there is no threat that 2017 TD6 will hit Earth. Millions of near-Earth objects litter this planet’s cosmic neighborhood, but NASA researchers and other skywatchers have discovered a majority of the rocks that could do significant damage and have found that they pose no threat for the forseeable future.