Breaking News: Small NEO Could Pass Within 60,000 km of Earth on Tuesday

by Nancy Atkinson on October 10, 2010

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Artists impression of an asteroid flying by Earth. Credit: NASA

A small asteroid will likely pass very close to Earth this week Tuesday. Astronomers are still tracking the object, now designated as 2010 TD54, and various estimates say it could possibly come within anywhere from 52,000 km (33,000 miles) to 64,000 km (40,000 miles) on October 12, with closest approach at approximately 11:25 UT. Information on the IAU Minor Planet Center website lists the object as coming with 0.0003 AU. The size of the object has not been determined, but estimates say it is likely smaller than 10 meters. We’ll provide an update as soon as more information is available.

UPDATE: Don Yeomans, Manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office replied to an inquiry about the object and said the newly discovered NEO 2010 TD54 is approximately 5-10 meters in size, and is now predicted to pass about 46,000 km from Earth’s surface at about 07:25 EDT (11:25 UT) on Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010. It was discovered by Catalina Sky Survey on Saturday morning.

“Only 1 in a million chance of an impact,” Yeomans said, “and even if it does impact, it is not large enough to make it through the Earth’s atmosphere to cause ground damage.”

The object may be visible to amateur telescopes as a 14th magnitude “star” — it will be traveling through the constellations Pisces and Aquarius.

Sources: IAU Minor Planet Center, Unmanned Spaceflight,Yahoo News Groups

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

J. Major October 10, 2010 at 8:08 PM

Duck!!!

jimhenson October 11, 2010 at 6:38 AM

how big do they have to be, so that everybody can be informed sooner then just a couple of days warning? surely a giant asteroid could suddenly appear just as fast as TD54, because we have primitive detection systems. we better get some satellites in orbit around earth, and start becoming able to deflect intercept their path towards earth, by launching nuclear rockets from space satellites. we could blow them up with nuclear weapons at a far enough distance this way, avoiding any smaller impacts with earth. increased distances and early diversion will save the planet despite that they all say not to use nuclear weapons because it breaks up into smaller impact fragments.

GBendt October 11, 2010 at 2:26 AM

Everybody keep cool …
This object is too tiny to be anything like an impressive view in an amateur´s telescope.
It is thought to be some 7m across, passing by at a distance of 40000 km. At that distance, and with an albedo like the moon, the brightness of this object will be 26 magnitudes less than the brightness of the full moon.

Aqua October 11, 2010 at 8:28 AM

INCOMING! Got hard hat and gold undies?

Eventually a large(r) object will be detected prior to entering Earth’s atmosphere. Thus far, only one impact has been reliably detected, predicted, tracked and pieces found on the ground. IF a large rock is eventually found and it is determined that it will hit near a population center, will there be time for an evacuation? BUT with only 48-60 hours(?) advance notice as sighted above, and given aerodynamic unknowns, would a large city have the will or even the means to do that? Brings a whole new perspective to the term ‘rush hour’!

jimhenson October 11, 2010 at 5:09 PM

No police nor national guard will stick around, people will loot the grocery stores before everything is sold out. Airports will be closed, airline pilots will have left without their passengers. Dangerous drivers all over the roads trying to leave town, will not be able to buy an gasoline and become stranded to die. Those safest will be well insulated underground in a sentry proof home with a well and wind power turbine when sunlight is blocked. Extra air conditioners might keep it cool beneath the surface, cause it could get very hot outside. growing hydrophonic lettuce like Nasa did on the space shuttle will produce large amounts of oxygen in case the atmosphere is destroyed! GOOD LUCK !

geraldspace October 11, 2010 at 2:03 PM

It is actually quite common for small NEOs like 2010 TD54 to be discovered only days or hours before closest approach to Earth. In fact, sometimes they aren’t discovered until AFTER closest approach. Generally, NEOs smaller than 50 meters or so are hard to detect until they are practically right on us. It depends on a number of factors, most of which (e.g., albedo, phase angle, weather) we have no control over, but some of which (e.g., funding, number of search telescopes) we can control. Most likely, the next serious impact experienced on Earth will have very short notice: likely only a few days, maybe a week or so. Evacuation of the probable impact zone under those circumstances is not really practical.

Uncle Fred October 11, 2010 at 8:06 PM

jimhenson… I know a wonderful psychiatrist. Would you like her number?

jimhenson October 12, 2010 at 3:51 PM

Yes I would. I’m an old man who has worked hard all his life, and needs help finding a doctor who can retire me with my social security. I try to help facilitate discussions, and have a geniune scientific interest and degree, wanting to do well for others, and the lord. If your doctor can help me retire, perhaps by a good referal by knowing you and how we met, along with plenty of good medical reasons like severe orthopaedic disabilities, I’ll agree to quit posting on any website that you read and even thank you! posting here is something that I enjoy, and i don’t need any of your doctor talk crap if you’re not willing to help and are all full of it yourself fred!

RUF October 12, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Oh my.

Sometimes NEO’s appear to come “out of the sun” so to speak, and this makes them hard to locate very far in advance.

It would be great to capture one rather than blow it up.

jimhenson October 14, 2010 at 6:45 PM

How could it be captured or slowed to a stop, to float in zero gravity? it is moving about 10 miles per second, but is only 7 meters diameter. with this little mass, its kinetic energy of motion to cause damage is insufficient to hit earths surface. Double the speed, and you get four times or the square to the kinetic energy, but doubling the mass only doubles the kinetic energy proportionally.

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