Sunday, March 5, 2017

House-Sized Asteroid Misses Earth

Orbital diagram of the asteroid Asteroid 2017 DS109. Credit: NASA/JPL

Asteroid 2017 DS109 has whizzed by Earth today at a safe distance of about 0.9 lunar distances or LD (215,000 miles or 345,000 kilometers). The recently discovered space rock has an estimated diameter of approximately 92 feet (28 meters).

2017 DS109 was detected on Feb. 27, 2017 with the first Pan-STARRS telescope (PS1), located at the summit of Haleakalā on Maui, Hawaii. It belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids and flew by our planet at 14:29 UTC with a velocity of about 11.38 km/s. Besides whizzing by Earth, this minor body also missed the Moon at a distance of about 1.46 LD.

The asteroid’s next fly-by of Earth will occur on Apr. 15, 2020, when it will pass by our planet at a much safer distance of approximately 38 LD.

2017 DS109 is the eight known asteroid to flyby Earth within 1 LD this year. In 2016, there were 52 such objects.

One more significant flyby is expected to take place in March. On Mar. 16, the asteroid 1998 SL36, with an estimated size of about 1,280 feet (390 meters) will miss the Earth by 8.3 LD. 

There are 1,777 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) detected to date. PHAs are space rocks larger than approximately 100 meters that can come closer to Earth than 19.5 LD. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet.

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