A few hours ago, asteroid 2012 KT42 passed by Earth at distance of a mere 14,440 kilometers (8,950 miles), the 6th closest pass on record. This is almost three times closer than geosynchronous satellites. Alex Gibbs from the Catalina Sky Survey, the discoverer of this asteroid, created this video of 2012 KT42 during its closest approach to Earth. Don’t panic, Gibbs says, as the video shows the asteroid moving at 2,000 times the actual speed. However, the asteroid was zooming along at 17km/sec (38,000 mph). Each image is a 3 second exposure, during which the object moved, creating a trail. The images were taken on May 29, 2012 between 4:30 and 6:55 UT, the latter being 6 minutes before closest approach. This asteroid was less than 10 meters across, so was far too small to make it through our atmosphere intact, even if it did intersect directly with Earth’s path. Gibbs said the asteroid was a little brighter than expected, but otherwise lived up to its predicted pass distance and size.
Other astrophotographers also got images of 2012 KT42’s close pass. Peter Lake has this 20-second image, very close to the time of closest approach:
Lake said he actually took 15 images via a robotic telescope, of which only three had the asteroid in them. “That’s how fast it was going,” he said.
(Video Courtesy Alex R. Gibbs, Catalina Sky Survey, University of Arizona, NASA Near-Earth Object Program.)
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.