Massive asteroid speeding near Earth

Massive asteroid speeding near Earth

An asteroid that may be longer than a football field will get uncomfortably close to our planet soon, experts say.

Scientists are keeping a close eye on an asteroid of significant size that will pass quite close the Earth soon. Asteroid 2010 WC9, which was first detected back on Nov. 30, 2010 by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, is back for another visit, and it will be passing at an incredible close distance of about half the distance the moon is from us.

When it was first spotted back in 2010, astronomers were not able to predict when it might be back because of unclear data on its orbit. But on May 8, eight years later, astronomers spotted the asteroid again and identified it as long-lost 2010 WC9. It will be closest to Earth at 6:05 p.m. Eastern time on May 15, when it will be just 126,000 miles from Earth.

The asteroid will blast past Earth at an incredible 28,000 miles per hour, and it will be between 60 and 130 meters. That would make it likely bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor, which was about 65 feet long (only about 20 meters) and damaged thousands of buildings when it struck the city back in 2013.

You’ll actually be able to watch it live when it does fly past, thanks to Northolt Branch Observatories.

“We have discussed the unusual object 2010 WC9 with EarthSky! Check out the link below for that, with more information about this asteroid, why it is special, and how you can see it yourself,” states their Facebook page. “If you want to watch the asteroid from your couch, you can do that, too: We plan to broadcast live from the telescope on the evening of May 14th (the day before closest approach), provided that weather allows it! We will share details about that on our Facebook page, on Monday.”

“Asteroid 2010 WC9 will safely pass at about half’s the moon’s distance on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Estimates of its size range from 197 to 427 feet (60-130 meters), making the May 15 pass one of the closest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size,” states website EarthSky. “This asteroid was “lost” and then found again. The Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first detected it on November 30, 2010, and astronomers watched it until December 10, when it became too faint to see. They didn’t have enough observations to track its orbit fully and so predict its return. On May 8, 2018 – almost eight years later – astronomers discovered an asteroid and gave it the temporary designation ZJ99C60. Then they realized it was asteroid 2010 WC9, returning.”

Daniel Bamberger of Northolt said on his Facebook page that the object had been imaged twice.

“We imaged this object twice: First on May 9, when it was still known by its temporary designation ZJ99C60; then again on May 10, after it was identified as asteroid 2010 WC9, which had been a lost asteroid for eight years,” he wrote. “It is still a faint object of 18th magnitude, but it is brightening very rapidly: 2010 WC9 will be brighter than 11th magnitude at closest approach, making it visible in a small telescope!”

The following is a Wikipedia excerpt on near-Earth objects.

A near-Earth object (NEO) is any small Solar System body whose orbit can bring it into proximity with Earth. By definition, a Solar System body is a NEO if its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) is less than 1.3 astronomical units (AU). If a NEO’s orbit crosses the Earth’s and the object is larger than 140 meters (460 ft) across, it is considered a potentially hazardous object (PHO). Most known PHOs and NEOs are asteroids.

Known NEOs include more than seventeen thousand near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), more than one hundred short-period near-Earth comets (NECs), and a number of solar-orbiting spacecraft and meteoroids, large enough to be tracked in space before striking the Earth. It is now widely accepted that collisions in the past have had a significant role in shaping the geological and biological history of the Earth. NEOs have become of increased interest since the 1980s because of greater awareness of the potential danger some of the asteroids or comets pose, and methods of mitigation are being researched.

Based on the orbit calculations of NEOs, the risk of future impacts is assessed on two scales, the Torino scale and the more complex Palermo scale, both of which rate a risk of any significance with values above 0. Some NEOs have had positive initial Torino or Palermo scale ratings after their discovery, but as of March 2018, more precise calculations based on subsequent observations led to a reduction of the rating to or below 0 in all cases.

Since 1998, the United States, the European Union, and other nations are scanning for NEOs in an effort called Spaceguard. The initial aim of cataloging at least 90% of NEOs that are at least 1 kilometer (km) wide—about 0.62 miles (mi), which would cause a global catastrophe in case on an impact on Earth—had been met by 2011. In later years, the survey effort has been expanded to objects as small as about 140 m (460 ft) across, which still have potential for large-scale, though not global, damage.

Due to their Earth-like orbits and low surface gravity, NEOs are easy targets for spacecraft. As of March 2018, five near-Earth comets and three near-Earth asteroids have been visited by spacecraft, and probes are en route to two more NEAs. Plans to mine NEAs commercially have been picked up by a private company.

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