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Asteroids

  • Asteroid 2021 DG Close Approach at 0.43 LD

    A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2021 DG flew past Earth at a distance of 0.43 LD / 0.00111 AU (166 050 km / 103 180 miles) from the center of our planet at 14:21 UTC on February 18, 2021. 

    This is the 20th known asteroid to flyby Earth within 1 lunar distance since the start of the year and the 11th so far this month.

    2021 DG was first observed at Mt. Lemmon Survey, Arizona on February 17, one day before its close approach.

    It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and has an estimated diameter between 2.4 and 5.4 m (7.9 - 17.7 feet).

    WATCH: Huge mile-wide Asteroid Approaching Earth in March

  • Asteroid 2021 GW4 close encounter with Earth

    A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2021 GW4 will fly by at a distance of just 0.07 LD / 0.00018 AU (26 927 km / 16 730 miles) from the center of our planet at 13:01 UTC on April 12, 2021. This is the 40th known asteroid to fly by Earth within 1 lunar distance since the start of the year and 7th so far this month.

    2021 GW4 was first observed at Mt. Lemmon Survey, Arizona on April 8, 4 days before its close approach.

    The object belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and has an estimated diameter between 3.5 and 7.7 m (11.5 - 24 600 feet).

    Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]

  • Asteroid Passes Dangerously Close to Earth. Breaks Record for Closest Flyby

    A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2020 VT4 flew past Earth at a very close distance of just 0.02 LD / 0.0000451 AU (6 746 km / 4 192 miles) at 17:20 UTC on November 13, 2020. This makes it the closest known asteroid to flyby Earth, surpassing 2020 QGwhich flew past us on August 16, 2020, at 0.0000623 AU.

    2020 VT4 is the 91st known asteroid to flyby Earth within 1 lunar distance since the start of the year and the 6th so far this month.

    The object was first observed at ATLAS-MLO, Mauna Loa, Hawaii on November 14, one day after its close approach.

    It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and has an estimated diameter between 4.8 and 11 m (16 - 36 feet).

    2020 VT4 flew past us at a speed (relative to the Earth) of 13.42 km/s.

    Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]

    Watch: Asteroid Apophis 'God of Chaos' is Accelerating, on Path for Extremely Close Encounter

  • Biggest and Fastest Asteroid of 2021 is Coming our Way

    A massive asteroid is making a flyby of Earth on March 21.

    We’ve known about this kilometre-wide space rock for nearly 20 years, and its upcoming encounter the largest and fastest flyby for any known asteroid in all of 2021.

    According to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), nearly one hundred known asteroids are set to fly past Earth before the end of 2021. Among these, one in particular — named (231937) 2001 FO32 — stands out from the rest in two ways.

    At an estimated 1.1 kilometres wide, it is the largest known asteroid to fly past us this year. It could even be up to 1.7 km wide, based on astronomical records from over the past two decades. So, that means it’s roughly twice the size of the CN Tower, but possibly even larger. Of the approximately 25,000 near-Earth asteroids that we know about, only around three and a half per cent of them are larger than one kilometre. This puts (231937) 2001 FO32 into a fairly rare class.

    This space rock is also the fastest-moving asteroid passing us this year. While most asteroids just ‘coast’ on by us, travelling at less than 10 km/s, (231937) 2001 FO32 will streak past at a speed of 34.4 kilometres per second, or nearly 124,000 kilometres per hour.

    Discovered on March 23, 2001, (231937) 2001 FO32 is classified as an Apollo asteroid. Orbiting the Sun every 810 days or so, it travels from inside Mercury’s orbit to the asteroid belt and back. This path means that it crosses Earth’s orbit. When it does, though, sometimes we are on the other side of the Sun, while other times we are closer.

    Based on NASA’s records, on March 21, 2021, we will see the closest encounter ever with (231937) 2001 FO32. It has not come closer, going back as far as the early 1900s. It will not come closer to us in the future, looking out to at least the year 2200 and likely well beyond.

    Regardless of its size and speed, (231937) 2001 FO32 poses no threat to Earth. When the asteroid passes by on the 21st, its closest approach is more than 2 million kilometres away. That’s over 5 times farther away than the distance the Moon orbits around the Earth.

    Over the past 20 years, astronomers have observed this asteroid on numerous occasions. They know its orbit so well that the uncertainty in its 2-million-km closest approach is only 330 kilometres — a tiny fraction of the total. To get a sense of just how tiny that is… if Earth was the size of a basketball, the asteroid would be a small grain of sand, 60 microns across and farther away than a football field (~120 meters). At that same scale, the uncertainty in the asteroid’s orbit would be the width of a human hair!

    Given that Earth has circled the Sun roughly four-and-a-half billion times, it has had plenty of time to sweep up dangerous asteroids. Thus, according to NASA, there are no known asteroid threats for at least the next 100 years.

    This year, the next largest and fastest asteroid to (231937) 2001 FO32 would be 2016 AJ193, another Apollo asteroid that flies all the way beyond Jupiter before it swings back around the Sun. It is slightly smaller (around 800-900 m wide) and slower (26 km/s or ~94,000 km/h), and it passes by on August 21, at an even farther distance of over 3.4 million km, or 8.9 times the distance to the Moon.

    The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center reports that, since the start of 2021, over 500 newly discovered near-Earth asteroids have been spotted. While some of these new discoveries are larger than 100 metres wide, these are detected far beyond the Moon. The closest are typically around 10 m wide or smaller.

    While they can get very close, and some even intercept our planet, these are too small to pose a danger to us, and usually explode far up in the atmosphere. If this year is a typical one for asteroid detections (nearly 3,000 were found in 2020), a few thousand more will likely be found before we leave 2021 behind

  • Close Encounter with Asteroid 2021 JQ2

    A newly-discovered asteroid designated 2021 JQ2 flew past Earth at a distance of 0.17 LD / 0.00045 AU (67 320 km / 41 830 miles) at 10:47 UTC on May 8, 2021. This is the 55th known asteroid to fly by Earth within 1 lunar distance since the start of the year.

    The object was first observed at Mt. Lemmon Survey, Arizona on May 7, one day before its close approach.

    2021 JQ2 belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and has an estimated diameter between 2.7 and 6 m (8.8 - 19.7 feet).

    Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]

    NASA's recent Asteroid Impact Exercise Indicates that an asteroid heading for Earth cannot be stoppedWatch Video

  • NASA confirms Asteroid 2001 FO32's Speed at 77,000 mph

    Officially called 2001 FO32, the asteroid will make its closest pass of Earth on Sunday, March 21

    According to estimates, the asteroid measures somewhere in the range of 1,300 to 2,230ft (440 to 680m).

    To put the scale into perspective, at 2,230ft the asteroid is seven times as tall as Big Ben's clocktower in London.

    Stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere should be able to see FO32 through a moderately-sized telescope of at least eight inches.

    Asteroid FO32 was first spotted in March 2001 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program in Socorro, New Mexico.

    Preliminary scans suggested the space rock measured about 3,000ft (914m) across, although subsequent observations scaled it down somewhat.

    The asteroid is big enough to be considered "potentially hazardous" but that does not mean it is going to strike the planet.

    Instead, the asteroid's size and relatively close flyby make it an object worth keeping an eye on in the future.

    Asteroids are said to swing by on "close approaches" whenever they come within 0.05 au of Earth - nearly five million miles.

    Paul Chodas, director of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) in California, said: "We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since.

    "There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles."

    During its flyby, FO32 will pass us at speeds of about 77,000mph (124,000kph) - faster than most asteroids visiting Earth.

    NASA's observations show the asteroid follows an elongated and steeply inclined orbit of the Sun.

    The path brings the asteroid closer to the Sun than Mercury and twice as far from the Sun as Mars.

    NASA compared the trajectory to a skateboarder on a halfpipe - FO32 picks up speed every time is flies towards the inner solar system and slows down on its way out.

    FO32 completes a lap every 810 days or just more than two years.

    The asteroid will make its next closest pass in 2052 when it will come within 1.75 million miles of Earth.

  • NASA Readys for Near Approach of Another Asteroid

    AN ASTEROID is set to fly by Earth this weekend, coming almost as close to our planet as the Moon is.

    A space rock known as 2020 WC4 will be "near Earth" according to NASA, as it swings by our planet on Saturday, November 28. The asteroid will whizz by our planet at a distance of 429,846 miles. For reference, the Moon is an average of 239,000 miles from our planet, in what is known as a lunar distance (LD).

    As such, 2020 WC4 will be just 1.8 LDs from Earth on Saturday, before it continues on its voyage around the Sun.

    According to observations, the asteroid is travelling at an impressive speed of 5.2 kilometres per second. That is the equivalent of almost 19,000 kilometres per hour.

    However, the asteroid is only around six metres wide, according to observations from NASA.

    Nonetheless, NASA has classified it as a near Earth object (NEO), which allows them to study the system of the solar system

    A recent study found Earth is not safe from asteroids, with one in particular - known as Apophis - posing a threat.

    Last month, an astronomer from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) revealed the 370-metre wide asteroid could still hit Earth.

    Scientists had initially ruled out the 2068 collision, but the research showed there is a minute chance - roughly one in 530,000 - the asteroid Apophis could hit Earth.

    The new study was announced following the detection of a small Yarkovsky acceleration on the surface of the asteroid.

    The Yarkovsky effect is when an asteroid or celestial body changes its orbit due to small push of heat, either from itself expelling gasses, or the gravitational push and shove from celestial bodies including the Sun and Earth.

    In this instance, the scientists have discovered a small thermal reaction which could slightly alter Apophis's course, and send it Earth-bound.

    A statement from the University of Hawai'i said: "All asteroids need to reradiate as heat the energy they absorb from sunlight in order to maintain thermal equilibrium, a process that slightly changes the orbit of the asteroid.

    "The detection of this effect acting on Apophis means that the 2068 impact scenario is still a possibility.

    "Further observations to refine the amplitude of the Yarkovksy effect and how it affects Apophis' orbit are underway.

    "Astronomers will know well before 2068 if there is any chance of an impact."

    Watch: Asteroid Apophis 'God of Chaos' is Accelerating, on Path for Extremely Close Encounter

  • Three asteroids pass within 1 LD on March 23

    Three newly-discovered asteroids flew past Earth within 1 lunar distance on March 23, 2021 -- 2021 FO1, 2021 FH, and 2021 FP2. This pushed the number of known <1LD asteroid flybys this year to 33.

    2021 FO1 was first observed at Mt. Lemmon Survey, Arizona on March 20, three days before its close approach at 0.84 LD / 0.00215 AU (321 635 km / 199 850 miles).

    It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and has an estimated diameter between 3.4 and 7.6 m (11 - 25 feet).

    Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]

    2021 FH was first observed at Mt. Lemmon Survey on March 18, five days before its close approach.

    It has an estimated diameter between 12 and 28 m (39 - 91.8 feet) and belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids.

    The object flew past us at a distance of 0.61 LD / 0.00157 AU (234 870 km / 145 940 miles).

    Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]

    2021 FP2 flew past us at a distance of 0.84 LD / 0.00216 AU (323 130 km / 200 780 miles).

    It has an estimated diameter between 2.5 and 5.7 m (8.2 - 18.7 feet) and belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids.

    The object was first observed at Mt. Lemmon Survey on March 22, one day before its close approach.

    Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]

    Asteroid 2021 FO1 at Minor Planet Center; CNEOS

    AsteroidH 2021 FH at Minor Planet Center; CNEOS

    Asteroid 2021 FP2 at Minor Planet Center; CNEOS

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