Good to know the Spaceguard teams are keeping an eye out for us. The eagle-eyed observers at the Catalina Sky Survey have spotted an asteroid which will pass relatively close to Earth this Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 23:06 U.T.C. (4:06 p.m. PDT, 7:06 pm EDT). But it should pose no problem, as at the time of closest approach asteroid 2010 GA6 will be about 359,000 kilometers (223,000 miles) away from Earth – about 9/10ths the distance from to the moon. The asteroid is approximately 22 meters (71 feet) wide.
“Fly bys of near-Earth objects within the moon’s orbit occur every few weeks,” said Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
This one, however, is a bit bigger than other recent asteroid alerts NASA’s Near Earth Observation program has issued. In November 2009, a 7-meter asteroid called 2009 VA came within 14,000 km (8,700 miles) of Earth and in January, 2010 AL30 was about 10-15 meters long and came within only 128,000 km (about 80,000 miles).
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NASA’s NEO program, also called Spaceguard, discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
So while you’re waiting for this one to pass by you can read Don Yeoman’s top ten favorite asteroid facts.
The Catalina telescope is in Tucson, Arizona.
For more information about asteroids and near-Earth objects, visit NASA’s Asteroid Watch page.