Friday, November 17, 2017

Large Asteroid Flies By Earth at a Safe Distance

Asteroid 444584 (or 2006 UK), estimated to be about 300 meters wide, swooshed by Earth on Friday, November 17. The space rock missed our planet at 21:09 UTC at a safe distance of about 8.7 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 3.34 million kilometers.

2006 UK is an Apollo-type potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), which was discovered by Spacewatch on October 17, 2006. Spacewatch is an astronomical survey that specializes in the study of minor planets, including various types of asteroids and comets at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.

2006 UK has an absolute magnitude of 20.2 and orbits the sun every 666 days at a distance of about 1.5 AU. On Friday, it passed by Earth with a relative velocity of approximately 14.8 km/s.

Friday's fly-by offered an excellent opportunity for astronomers to observe this asteroid from close distance in order to uncover more insights into its nature. Scientists at the Goldstone Solar System Radar in California planned to obtain detailed images of this object with resolutions of at least 7.5 meters.

Moreover, 2006 UK was bright enough for photometry and visible/infrared spectroscopy in the first half of November, therefore additional information on its physical properties became available shortly before the radar observations started.

Next close approach of 2006 UK to Earth is expected on March 27, 2027, when it fly by Earth at a distance of about 90 LD.

On November 16, there were 1,853 PHAs detected, however none of them is on a collision course with our planet. PHAs are asteroids larger than 100 meters that can come closer to Earth than 19.5 LD.

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