September 24, 2020 Close Encounter


On September 24, 2020 tiny asteroid 2020 SW ( roughly 6 – 10 meter diameter ) will pass between Earth and the Moon at 7.7 Km per second ( that’s 27,900 km/h ). At closest approach 28,254 kilometers away, a mere 7% of distance to the Moon. Closer than communication and meteorological satellites locked in orbit at 38,000ish kilometers above our planet. Close enough for gravity to alter velocity and bend 2020 SW’s trajectory.

Astronomers confidently stress there’s nothing to fear, 2020 SW won’t unleash calamity. Not now or for the next fifty years of calculated orbit.

Infinitely more remarkable than online chatter surrounding a “near miss”, is the fact 2020 SW was discovered on September 18, 2020, completely unknown until a few days ago. It’s been orbiting Earth every 372 days for who knows how long, nobody noticed until now. Brings to mind Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, 2013 – global eyes fixated on known asteroid DA 14 making a close fly-by. Without warning, unidentified cosmic rubble struck our atmosphere from another direction. Exploding over Chelyabinsk, injuring over a thousand residents to the dismay of stunned astronomers.

Long green line swooping around and away from earth, and yellow arrow pointing out from Earth.

Small asteroid 2020 SW will pass so close to Earth on September 24, that our planet’s gravity will alter the space rock’s speed and bend its path through space. The green line indicates the asteroid’s trajectory, while the yellow line points to the sun. Gray line represents the Moon’s orbit, but not to scale. Illustration by the Minor Planet Center, with modifications by Eddie Irizarry.

2020 SW won’t be visible to the naked eye, but interested sky watchers can watch live online at Virtual Telescope Project in Rome. Linked below –

Poster advertising live event for viewing asteroid 2020 SW on September 23.

View larger. | The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will be showing asteroid 2020 SW live a few hours its closest approach. The live feed is scheduled for September 23, 2020 starting at 22 UTC; translate UTC to your time. To join online, go to Virtual Telescope’s website.

Cosmic gak abounds, the universe undulates in incomprehensible maelstroms of its own design. For every identified potentially hazardous asteroid, countless more tiptoe in obscurity. Be it light pollution, sunward approaching objects, observational limitations, rogue insurgents ejected from the asteroid belt, there’s no end to reasons why near Earth objects catch us off guard.

Sky chart with constellations, Mars, and tick marks for location of asteroid.

Location of Asteroid 2020 SW on the night of Wednesday, September 23, at around 10:30 pm CDT (03:30 UTC on September 24). Facing east, as seen from U.S. The space rock will be located not too far from where we see the star Algenib (Gamma Pegasi), in the Great Square of Pegasus. Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.

Asteroid 2014 YB35


On Friday March 27, asteroid 2014 YB35 passes our planet at a distance of nearly four and a half million Kilometers. No small rock, YB35’s estimated girth of 750 meters or so, likely accounts for news stories and internet chatter of “NASA on high alert” and “near miss” hysteria.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1954895/nasa-on-alert-as-huge-asteroid-2014-yb35-set-to-make-close-earth-approach-at-23000-mph-on-friday/

As of today, 1563 such objects grace the PHA (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid) roster. A PHA is any space object orbiting within 100 LD (1 Lunar Distance being the distance between Earth and the Moon) and large enough to make it through our atmosphere. 2014 YB35 will pass at 11.6 LD.

I’ve spent the last while pondering why sporadic asteroid buzz annoys me so much. As someone who pays attention to these things, a person devoting countless hours and energy in hope others start paying attention – reality dictates most won’t give it a second thought after Friday. The 1908 Tunguska event over Siberia – 2000 square Kilometers of forest obliterated by a asteroid estimated at 50 meters across, one that vaporized without making impact. Pondering Tunguska makes me grumpy. Intermittent excitement because something is large – tweeted today, forgotten tomorrow.

In conclusion, relax – 2014 YB35 is more “just another day” than “high alert” at NASA’s office. Statistically speaking, true “high alert” days are unavoidable – no different from catastrophic earthquakes and climate changing volcanic eruptions. Maybe I’m odd, rather than fret about probability in my lifetime or that of my children, I choose to learn all I can with detached interest. Go figure.

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.

http://earthsky.org/space/asteroid-2004-bl86-to-sweep-close-on-january-26

 

Ponder Tomorrows Near Earth Asteroid


August 25, a near earth asteroid of alarming size will pass our planet. A near earth asteroid is classified as anything under 100 Lunar Distance from Earth. Lunar Distance being the distance from earth to the moon. Asteroid 1998TU3 will come within 49.5 LD, for which we can all breath a sigh of relief, it’s almost 5 KM across. By contrast we also welcome 2012QH14, only 3.5 LD, and a paltry 15 metres wide.

The asteroid that put an end to the age of the dinosaur struck in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists estimate a tsunami 500 feet high followed, with evidence of sea life found as far away as Colorado. It was estimated to be 15 KM wide.

This link is to space weather, and has a chart of upcoming “near earth” events.

http://spaceweather.com/