A Close Call: Asteroid Just Passed Very Close to Earth


At the end of June 28th 2019 asteroid, 2019 OK was first imagined by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (for short, Pan-STARRS). The survey did not pay much attention to it as it seemed that the asteroid moved rather slowly towards Earth. It was not until a month later, on July 24th, that the asteroid was noticed by a team of astronomers at the Southern Observatory for Near Earth Asteroids Research (SONEAR). At that time, 2019 OK was 1,500,000 km (930,000 mi) from Earth.

A close call

Only a day after the cosmic object was picked up on, it had already approached our planet quite fast, being discovered to come within less than one-fifth of the distance between the Moon and Earth, meaning around 71,300 km (44,300 mi). The speed of the asteroid was almost 88,500 km (55,000 mi) per hour. It is worth mentioning that it was confirmed and publicly listed as 2019 OK three hours before the July 25th, when it was the closest to our Earth.

This was the moment when the European Space Agency alerted about a possible threat the 2019 OK asteroid presented for Earth. The warning was imperious as it is unusual for any celestial object of this size (estimated to be between 57 and 130 meters) to whizz Earth at less than 100,000 km. The asteroid was put in the ‘potentially hazardous’ category by NASA because, in the event that it was to hit Earth, it could have destroyed an entire city or create calamitous tsunamis.

In the future, the asteroid is expected to pass Earth again, this time at 4,500,000 km (2,800,000 mi) distance from the planet. Astronomers estimated this will happen in 2116.

2019 OK was the first name given to the asteroid, according to the period it was discovered. Therefore, 2019 refers to the year, ‘O’ refers to the month and day of the discovery (between July 16th and 31st) and ‘K’ because it was the 10th cosmic object discovered in that period.


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