Astronomers and skywatchers have done an amazing job at locating lots and lots of near-Earth objects that could pose a threat, but some of them inevitably sneak up on us. Today, a newly-discovered asteroid is going to make an extremely close pass by Earth, coming well within the distance that separates our planet from the Moon.
The rock, labeled 2017 TD6, is still rather mysterious to scientists, and current data on the object can only narrow down its diameter to somewhere between about 30 and 72 feet. That’s a pretty wide range, but thankfully astronomers know enough about its trajectory to say with confidence that the asteroid poses no tangible risk to Earth itself.
For its first-ever observed pass of Earth, 2017 TD6 is going to be cruising by at a distance of around 119,000 miles. That might sound like a pretty massive buffer zone, but it’s actually not all that far. The Moon, for example, orbits our planet at around 240,000 miles, or roughly twice the distance at which the asteroid will pass. The rock will be moving at over 20,000 mph relative to Earth when it makes its close approach.
Earth has been incredibly lucky as of late when it comes to avoiding asteroid impacts. TC6 is the 39th asteroid to pass by Earth within the Moon’s orbit in 2017 alone, and astronomers are spotting new space rocks at pretty regular intervals.
At the present time, scientists have no reason to believe Earth’s luck will run out any time soon, and there’s no danger of large asteroid strikes in the foreseeable future. Still, the fact that objects the size of 2017 TD6 are cruising around our neighborhood is a reminder that we’re sure to see a real visit from one of them sooner or later.