Mini-Asteroid Flying By Earth Tonight

Article Updated: 26 Apr , 2016

A small asteroid will make a fairly close flyby of Earth tonight, November 16, 2010 at 10:44 p.m. EST (0344 GMT), but it is not a threat to hit the planet. Plus, at 3 meters wide, (10 ft) the asteroid, named 2010 WA, would break apart if it hit Earth’s atmosphere. Still, finding and tracking the small asteroid is “good practice in detection,” wrote NASA’s @AsteroidWatch Twitter feed.

2010 WA will pass about 1/10 lunar distance, or about 38,000 kilometers (24,000 miles) away, and have a magnitude of about 14.5, so it won’t be visible “without a good sized telescope” said @AsteroidWatch. But if you do have such a telescope, the asteroid could be seen over the middle to east coast of US.

For references, geostationary satellites are in orbit about 36,000 km (22,350 miles) up, while the International Space Station is about 350 km (220 miles) above Earth.

See more detailed information about 2010 WA on the Minor Planet Center Website

NASA is constantly on the lookout for asteroids, or Near Earth Objects (NEO), and has a mandate by Congress for the “Spaceguard” survey to find all asteroids around 40 meters and larger by 2020.

NASA says several teams of astronomers worldwide are surveying the sky to find NEOs. One of the most most productive NEO surveys is the LINEAR search program of the MIT Lincoln Lab, carried out in New Mexico with US Air Force and NASA support. The LINEAR team, which operates two search telescopes with one-meter aperture. Recently, the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona has been extremely productive, as well. Other active survey groups include the NEAT search program in Hawaii, carried out jointly by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and the US Air Force; the Spacewatch survey at the University of Arizona, and the LONEOS survey at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona. Other astronomers — many of them amateurs — follow up the discoveries with supporting observations.

Graph of NEO discoveries. Credit: NASA

To see more details on NEO discoveries, see this page on the NASA’s NEO website.

2 Responses

  1. Aqua says:

    The arrival of this asteroid is just coincidental with the Leonid meteor shower… right? So what’s its orbit look like? The link above, has the orbital elements but no comparison with the Leonid elements and are hard for the layman to decipher. Otherwise, what I’d like to see… is for a swarm of Leonids to smack into this asteroid just as that latest Earth directed CME hits!

  2. GBendt says:

    Such small asteroids are frequent visitors to our planet, but they usually pass along unnoticed, as their size and brightness is very feeble. Objects of that size hit our Earth several times a year, burning up and exploding in the upper atmosphere. A lot more miss our planet and pass by it.

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