Remember when I mentioned that ESA’s Rosetta was inbound to make a flyby of the Earth on November 13th? Well, another group of astronomers were watching this “unknown” object, and thought that it was actually an asteroid that was going to be making a close flyby of our planet. The astronomers realized their mistake, but not after an alert was sent out to the astronomical community. Oops.
The alert was sent out by the Minor Planet Center, a clearinghouse of asteroid information organized by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the International Astronomical Union.
Astronomers had been tracking the approaching object, designated 2007 VN84. After many observations from astronomers around the world, they calculated that it would pass us by at a distance of 1.89 radii (from the middle of the Earth).
It would have been huge news, but Denis Denisenko from Moscow’s Space Research Institute (IKI) realized that its flight path perfectly matched the upcoming Rosetta flyby.
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Here’s a link to an animation, captured by astronomers in Germany, of Rosetta inbound to the Earth.
And so, just to set the record straight, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft made its flyby on Tuesday, November 13th at 20:57 GMT, passing just 5,301 km above the Pacific Ocean. This has given it the gravitational boost it needs to meet up with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.
Original Source: MPEC Alert