2004 BL86 Encounter

Get out your binoculars – the evening of January 26/27 arrives with asteroid 2004 BL86.  A measly 3 LD (three times the distance from Earth to the Moon), and walloping 650-950 meters across – 2004 BL86 will safely pass, no cause for alarm, and barely noticed. Not to be seen  again for 200 years – at the very least gaze skyward, and thank the cosmos for another near miss.



Where Did You Come From 2014 AA?

It’s no secret I check space weather every day; solar wind, chance of flares, active sun spots, list of PHA (potentially harmful asteroid) in the next few months. My eyes settled on 2014 AA, Jan.2, 2014, .001 LD  (1 LD = the distance from earth to the moon), 3 meters. Holy crap – this wasn’t here yesterday. Where did you come from 2014 AA? It seems I needn’t have bothered trying to calculate what .001 of 384,000 Kms. was, 2014 AA entered our atmosphere around midnight EST. Believed to have burned up over the Atlantic, somewhere off the east coast of Africa.

This rogue little space rock hadn’t even been discovered until New Years Day, 24 hours later it slams into our atmosphere. Another nugget of information presented itself – this is only the second time astronomers spotted an asteroid before it hit our atmosphere. The first time in 2008 when 2008 TC3 burned up over the Sudan, and coincidentally TC 3 wasn’t discovered until the day before impact.


There isn’t a lot any of us can do about falling space junk; I’m not pacing the floor, fretting about a doomsday asteroid. There isn’t much we could do about a sudden, unexpected projectile hurtling towards our planet. That said, I was truly shocked to learn only two asteroids have ever been detected before hitting our atmosphere. Currently spaceweather lists 1488 PHA’s ranging from a few meters to Km’s in width. Gravity and its pull, orbits, and trajectories are fickle, I’d be a much happier ponderer if we put a little more effort into more than 24 hours notice.

Image – skyandtelescope.com

Asteroid, Meteor, Meteorite

An asteroid is a solid chunk of space debris orbiting the sun; made of rock and metals it is considered inactive. Comets on the other hand can be quite active. Composed mainly of ice and smaller rocks, the “tail” we see is dust and gasses released from the ice by the sun’s energy. Meteoroids happen when asteroids collide; breaking into smaller pieces, or when the heat of the sun releases debris from a comet. A meteoroid that burns up in our atmosphere is called a meteor. If it makes impact; it becomes a meteorite.

A meteorite the size of a beach ball would make a crater over 60 feet wide and almost 20 feet deep. The blast wave would flatten trees and kill any living thing within a mile of impact.


Scientists consider anything under 100 LD (1 LD = distance from earth to the moon) a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). As of today there are 1366 PHA’s being monitored. On Feb. 15, 2013 DA14 – 57 metres, will pass between us and the moon at .9 LD. Behemoths like 3752 Camillo – 3.4 Km., and 1993 UC – 3.8 Km. will sail by on Feb. 12 and March 20 at 57.5 and 49 LD respectively.

There’s no sense in losing sleep over space junk; we can’t really do anything about it. Though reading my post on cosmic paintball is an interesting theory to ponder. Instead; thank your lucky stars the next time you wish on a falling star that it was a meteor and not a meteorite.



Today in Space

I haven’t done a space report for a while. Today we dodged a big one. A massive eruption on the far side of the sun could have had some interesting consequences had it been directed at earth.

The solar wind is steady at 396 Km/sec. A mind boggling speed when you stop to think about it, yet just an average day on the sun.

Of the current 1353 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA) – any object 100 Lunar Distance (LD) or less from earth, (LD is the distance from earth to the moon), the closest one for the remainder of 2012 passes by tomorrow. Named 2012VS76 it will come within 2.4 LD and measures 18m across. The largest is 4179 Toutatis, on Dec. 12 it will pass 18 LD. for which we can all be thankful as Toutatis is nearly 3 Km. wide.

Sunspots AR1610 and 1614 are getting restless, NASA predicts only a 25% chance of an M class eruption and 5% for an X. There has been some impressive geomagnetic activity lately. Geomagnetic storms occur in the upper atmosphere when magnetic energy from the sun, propelled by solar wind or energy from coronal holes messes with our magnetosphere. A recent magnetic storm resulted in rare red auroras. We can expect spectacular auroras for the next few days.


First photo – NASA – recent magnetic eruption. Followed by a picture of red auroras taken by David E. Carter near Whitehorse, NWT