Astronomers Capture Images of Asteroid 2012 BX34’s Close Flyby of Earth

Animation of asteroid 2012 BX34's flyby of Earth on January 27, 2012, at 11:04 UTC, using the GRAS telescope in New Mexico, USA. E. Credit: Guido, G. Sostero & N. Howes


Small asteroid 2012 BX34 skimmed past Earth today, January 27, 2012, with closest approach at about 15:25 UT, and it passed only about 59,044 km (36,750 miles) or about ~0.2 lunar distance (or 0.0004 AU) above the Earth’s surface. It was discovered just a few days ago by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.

Above is an animation created by image from Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero & Nick Howes from the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy. However, they took this series of images remotely from the iTelescope (formerly called GRAS), near Mayhill, New Mexico, using a 0.10-m f/5 reflector + CCD.

“According to its absolute magnitude (H=27.6) this asteroid has an estimated diameter of roughly 8-18 meters, so it is very small,” the team said on their website. “At the moment of our images from New Mexico on January 27, 11:04UT, 2012 BX34 was moving at about ~318.86 “/min and its magnitude was ~15. At the moment of its close approach around 15UT of today, 2012 BX34 will be bright as magnitude ~13.8 and moving at ~1810 “/min.”

Below is a single 120-seconds exposure showing the object as a ~11-arcminutes trail (due to its fast speed). Also below is a video from Peter Lake using his telescope in New Mexico remotely from Melbourne Australia, who took a series of 11 images just 6 hours before its closest approach.

Single image of 2012 BX34's flyby of Earth on January 27, 2012, at 11:04 UTC, using the iTelescope telescope in New Mexico, USA. E. Credit: Guido, G. Sostero & N. Howes.

See this link to see an image taken by legendary comet and asteroid hunter Rob McNaught, using a telescope in Sliding Spring, Australia. McNaught’s data was used by the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex to obtain radar imagery to determine BX34’s shape, size and orbital parameters. At this point, there are various estimates of the asteroid’s size, which will be refined from all the data gathered by the various telescopes. But astronomers from JPL’s Asteroid Watch said the space rock was small enough that it wouldn’t have survived a trip through Earth’s atmosphere if it had been on a collision course with our planet.

The team from the Remanzacco Observatory have a great table on their website, the the top 20 closest approaches by NEOs (Near-Earth Objects) sorted by nominal distance. The table was computed on the NASA/Neo-JPL website.

Thanks to all the astronomers for sharing their images with Universe Today. We’ll add more as they become available.

8-Meter-Wide Asteroid Will Pass Close to Earth January 27

Orbital parameters of Asteroid 2012 BX34 from JPL's Small Body Database.


A small asteroid will pass extremely close to Earth tomorrow (January 27, 2012). Named 2012 BX34, this 11 meter- (36 feet-) wide 8 meter- (26-foot-) space rock (astronomers have updated their estimates of the size) will skim Earth less than 60,000 km (37,000 miles, .0004 AU)>, at around 15:30 UTC, (10:30 am EST) according to the Minor Planet Center. The latest estimates have this small bus-sized asteroid it traveling at about about 8,900 meters/second (about 20,000 miles per hour). 2012 BX34 has been observed by the Catalina Sky Survey and the Mt. Lemmon Survey in Arizona, and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory in New Mexico, so its orbit is well defined and there is no risk of impact to Earth.

Via the @AsteroidWatch Twitter feed, scientists from JPL said “It wouldn’t get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try.”

Amateur astronomers in the right place and time could view this object, as it should be about magnitude 14 at the time of closest approach. Click here to see a current orbit diagram, and here to view the ephemeris data. Nick Howes, with the Faulkes Telescope Project said his team is hoping to observe and image the asteroid, — although they aren’t sure if they will be able — but we hope to share their images later.

Update: see images from astronomers on our latest article regarding 2012 BX34

Hat Tip: Nick Howes