An asteroid as big as a jumbo jet made a close flyby of Earth today (March 4).
The space rock, named asteroid 2015 EG, posed no threat during the encounter as it passed by at a safe distance of about 274,400 miles (441,600 kilometers), or 1.1 times the average distance between Earth and the moon, at 4:03 p.m. EST (2103 GMT).
As its name implies, asteroid 2015 EG was discovered in 2015. NASA estimates that the space rock measures between 63 and 141 feet (19 to 43 meters) across and is currently barrelling through the solar system at 21,545 mph (9.63 km/h). It’s actually one of five near-Earth asteroids on NASA’s radar today, but asteroid 2015 EG made the closest approach of them all, according to NASA’s Asteroid Watch.
Today’s asteroid flyby was slated to be the closest of 2019 before NASA discovered two even-closer asteroids in February. NASA’s Catalina Sky Survey spotted the asteroid 2019 CN5 on Feb. 12, one day after that space rock made its closest approach and came within 73,500 miles (118,200 km) of Earth. Then, on Feb. 15, NASA spotted asteroid 2019 CS5 just two days before it passed just slightly closer to Earth than asteroid 2015 EG did today.
That second of February’s asteroids will fly by Earth again this year on Sept. 9, but it won’t come nearly as close on that visit; it will be about 39 million miles (63 billion km) away that time, or more than 160 times the average distance to the moon. Then, we won’t see the asteroid visit for almost another eight years; its next flyby will be on March 5, 2027, at a distance of about 9.5 million miles (15 million kilometers), or 40 times the moon’s distance, according to NASA’s Horizons database.
NASA and other observatories around the world are constantly scanning the skies for potentially hazardous “near-Earth objects,” and thousands have already been found. However, NASA estimates that at least 17,000 big near-Earth asteroids have yet to be discovered.