A 79-Foot Asteroid Just Skimmed Past Earth On Its Closest-Ever Approach

The space rock passed within 5.9 times the distance to the moon.

3D illustration of an asteroid approaching Earth.
Dotted Yeti / Shutterstock

The space rock passed within 5.9 times the distance to the moon.

Earlier today, Earth was buzzed by a 79-foot asteroid on what astronomers described as its closest-ever approach to our planet. The space rock was only discovered less than a month ago, at the end of January, but it has been regularly visiting Earth for the past 87 years.

First spotted on January 27, the near-Earth asteroid has been dubbed 2019 CG5. The space rock is estimated to measure between 36 feet and 78.7 feet in diameter, the Express is reporting.

This makes 2019 CG5 a fairly medium-sized asteroid. By comparison, asteroid 2019 CB2 – which swung by our corner of space exactly one week ago – was up to 130 feet wide, as reported by the Inquisitr at the time.

Ever since its discovery last month, the space rock has been carefully monitored by asteroid trackers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The scientists have calculated not only the size of 2019 CG5, but also its distance from our planet, and its trajectory through the solar system as it orbits the sun.

According to the JPL data, which was made public today, asteroid 2019 CG5 circles the sun once every 1.8 years, occasionally passing through our neck of the cosmic woods.

Its latest close approach to Earth occurred today at 1:35 p.m. ET, when the asteroid darted past our planet at breakneck speeds of nearly 20,000 mph. During its close flyby of Earth, the space rock came within 1.4 million miles of our planet.

The 1.416-million-mile distance is equivalent to 0.01524 astronomical units (AU), where one AU represents the average distance between Earth and the sun, or about 93 million miles. The same numbers also correspond to 5.93 times the distance from our planet to the moon, known as the lunar distance (LD).

Interestingly enough, today’s flyby was the closest that asteroid 2019 CG5 has ever gotten to Earth – and the closest it will ever get. In the past nine decades, the space rock has visited our planet five other times – starting from January 26, 1932 – but each time it passed farther away from Earth than it did today.

The last time that asteroid 2019 CG5 dropped by for a close visit was nine years ago. On January 17, 2010, the space rock flew past our planet at a whopping distance of 40 million miles away (0.4326 AU). That’s almost 169 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

In the past, the space rock only managed to get as close as 18.2 million miles from Earth (0.1956 AU) – but that was nearly 70 years ago. This second closest encounter occurred on May 29, 1950, and saw the asteroid approaching within 76.2 times the distance to the moon.

The near-Earth asteroid will swing by for another visit in about 18 years. Its next flyby is due to occur on June 17, 2037, when the asteroid will pass within 41.5 million miles of Earth (0.4464 AU, 173.9 LD).

The space rock will cross paths with Earth again in 2066, when it will buzz our planet from 26.5 million miles away.