A newly discovered asteroid, named 2017 HV2, passed very nearby Earth at about 6:04 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. The asteroid was initially predicted to come within 0.33 Lunar Distance of Earth, which is exactly what it sounds like: 2017 HV2 was much closer to the Earth than the moon. We don’t yet know exactly how close the asteroid passed, but if it came within the predicted distance, that would put it somewhere around 79,000 miles away from Earth (the moon is 238,900 miles away). Basically kissing our faces in astronomical terms, but nonetheless still very far away.
First things first: There’s no need for alarm. This will not be the thing that kills us. According to The Watchers, an ominously named space and weather news site, this is a much more common occurrence than you might have guessed.
“This is the 17th known near-Earth asteroid to fly by Earth within 1 lunar distance (~384 000 km / 238 606 miles) since January 9, 2017,” reads Sunday’s post.
Ron Baalke, a researcher at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tweeted that there will be five more asteroids to pass within five LD of Earth in 2017. Coincidentally, two of them are predicted to pass on Monday.
Discovered at the Mt. Lemmon Survey in Arizona on Sunday, 2017 HV2 was spotted mere hours before the object was predicted to pass by Earth.
Baalke also noted that 2017 HV2 is about seven meters across, and showed the predicted path of the asteroid.
The Watchers reports that 2017 HV2 is part of the Apollo Group of asteroids, of which there are 8,748 known members, making this group the largest known asteroid group by far. The Apollo Group actually shares a pretty similar heliocentric orbit with Earth, making these fly-bys quite frequent.
Unfortunately for the terrestrial astronomer, 2017 HV2 was too small and too distant to view from Earth. But hey, at least it didn’t kill us.