Two Asteroids Only Discovered Sunday Pass Earth Closer Than the Moon This Week

The region between the Earth and the moon has been busy this week. Not only did humans launch a sports car into space, but an asteroid passed incredibly close to our planet. On Friday, another will fly just one fifth of the distance between our planet and the moon.

The small but incredibly close-approaching asteroids were only discovered on Sunday. Astronomers from the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) near Tucson, Arizona, spotted the space rocks.

Asteroid 2018 CB will pass closely, but safely, on Friday, February 9. JPL-Caltech/NASA

Tuesday saw asteroid 2018 CC skim past the Earth just halfway to the moon. At 12:10 p.m. ET, the space rock flew past our planet at a distance of about 114,000 miles. Astronomers estimate it measured between 50 and 100 feet in diameter. This Friday will see 2018 CB pass Earth even closer, reaching just 39,000 miles away. This rock is about the same size as 2018 CC.

"Although 2018 CB is quite small, it might well be larger than the asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, almost exactly five years ago, in 2013," said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement. "Asteroids of this size do not often approach this close to our planet—maybe only once or twice a year."

Despite its similar size to the Chelyabinsk rock—which indirectly injured nearly 1,500 people—it doesn't pose the same risk. Astronomer Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) explained to Newsweek: “Even in the case of 2018 CB...this is [far] enough for it to come and go away without problems.”

2_7_Asteroid VTP Asteroid 2018 CC was captured from the Tenagra Observatories in Arizona on February 6. Gianluca Masi/Michael Schwartz/Virtual Telescope Project/Tenagra Observatories Ltd.

The number of objects observed flying past Earth has increased in recent years due to technological advancements, Masi added. He said: “Over the years, we have improved our capabilities to find these smaller asteroids. This is why we apparently have such a higher frequency of close encounters.”

You can tune in to the flyby of 2018 CB on Friday with a livestream from the VTP. The video will capture the asteroid from Italy as it sails safely through the skies from 3:00 p.m ET.