Published: Mon, May 27, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Very big asteroid with its own moon to skim Earth

Very big asteroid with its own moon to skim Earth

The asteroid, known by the designation 1999 KW4 and estimated to be almost a mile wide, will be visible by telescopes with at least an eight-inch diameter Friday through Monday as it passes by Earth. Thankfully, this appears to be a safe pass, as the asteroid and its moon will be more than three million miles away from us at closest approach Saturday evening.

Astronomers and scientists are also interested to learn about the small moons of asteroids.

The asteroid's Earth flyby will start May 24 and last until May 27.

The asteroid with the number 66391 (also known as 1999 KW4) is what is known as a Near Earth Asteroid because its orbit around the Sun takes it close to Earth's orbit.

The California-based Las Cumbres Observatory describes the larger object as having a complex shape resembling a walnut or spinning top.

"In 2019, the asteroid will approach from the south, and the first day of visibility also coincides with the closest approach (May 25)", the USA space agency writes in documents found on its website.

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The upcoming approach will provide even more insight into its behavior, which will prove useful for upcoming missions supported by NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office that aim to study similar systems.

The two space rocks are traveling at a speed of about 48,000 miles per hour.

As its name implies, asteroid 1999 KW4 was discovered 20 years ago.

Classified as a Near Earth Object, the 1.5-kilometer wide asteroid is expected to zip by Earth without causing any harm, though the Minor Planet Center has labelled it 'potentially hazardous.' Its companion moon is about half a kilometer wide. The two asteroids will remain visible for several days, though, according to EarthSky.

Though the asteroid will undoubtedly be hard to spot, there are some amateur astronomers who will take initiative and attempt to locate it as it passes by Earth.

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