The monstrous weight of rock is hurtling towards the blue planet at a speed of 26,500 mph. It will come closest to Earth on Saturday morning when it is expected to skim by at a distance of less than a few million miles. Known as asteroid 2019 RB3, the space rock was only discovered about a week-and-a-half-ago and was classified as a near-Earth-object (NEO).
In addition to approaching planet Earth, asteroid 2019 RB3 also has the potential of being “Earth-crossing”.
As an Apollo asteroid, the rock zips around the sun on an orbital path that allows it to not only come near Earth, but to also cross the planet’s orbit.
NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) revealed the rock is believed to be at least 124 feet across and can measure up to 278 feet in diameter.
This means that, at the upper end of NASA’s size estimate, asteroid 2019 RB3 is nearly as big as the Statue of Liberty, which stands about 310 feet tall.
Asteroid 2019 RB3 has been under the close watch of the JPL since it was first spotted.
The asteroid is classified as an Apollo type which orbit precariously within the range of the Earth.
These Earth-crossing asteroids have an orbital zone that stays within the orbit of the planet Mars.
After studying its trajectory over the course of 24 observations spanning a total of four days, the JPL team were able to plot the asteroid’s course through the inner solar system and pinpoint the moment of its close approach to Earth.
The wayfaring space rock last visited Earth in 2016.
It passed at a distance of nearly 33 million miles off the planet’s surface, and is now due for another flyby on September 21.
However, its next orbit of the solar system will bring it a lot closer to Earth.
Asteroid 2019 RB3 is expected to swoop by for its close encounter.
At its closest point to Earth, the asteroid will pass within 4.5 million miles of the planet’s surface.
To put that into perspective, that’s nearly 19 times the distance to the moon.
Thankfully, the odds of impact are drastically reduced the bigger an asteroid or comet is.
NASA would explain there is nothing to fear from the flyby of Asteroid 2019 RB3.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”