Thursday, December 21, 2017

House-Sized Asteroid to Miss Earth on Christmas Eve

Credit: NASA

A house-sized asteroid, designated 2017 WZ14, is expected to fly by Earth on December 24 at 21:17 UTC. The object will miss our planet at a safe distance of about 7.6 lunar distances (LD), or 2.9 million kilometers, with a relative velocity of 4.9 km/s.

2017 WZ14 was detected on November 22, 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 (PS1) telescope at the summit of Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) is an astronomical survey consisting of astronomical cameras, telescopes and a computing facility, surveying the sky for moving objects on a continual basis.

Astronomers reveal that 2017 WV12 has an estimated diameter between 18 and 57 meters, and an absolute magnitude of 25.1. The object has a semimajor axis of 0.96 AU and it takes it nearly one year to fully orbit the Sun.

Next close approach of 2017 WV12 to Earth will take place on December 14, 2018 when it will pass by our planet at a distance of approximately 117 LD (44.9 million kilometers). It will also fly by Venus on October 18, 2027 at a distance of about 55 LD (21 million kilometers).

On December 21, there were 1,872 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (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.

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 17,400 near-Earth objects (NEOs). Only this month 87 such objects were detected.

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