Thursday, February 22, 2018

Truck-Sized Asteroid to Fly By Earth on Saturday

A truck-sized asteroid named 2017 DR109 is slated to pass by Earth on Saturday, February 24 at around 5:18 UTC. The space rock will miss our planet with a relative velocity of 7.4 km/s at a safe distance of about 3.7 lunar distances (LD), or 1.42 million kilometers.

2017 DR109 is an Apollo-type asteroid discovered one year ago, on February 27, 2017 by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS). CSS is a project to discover comets and asteroids, and to search for near-Earth objects (NEOs), based at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona. 

Astronomers estimate that 2017 DR109 is about 9-20 meters in diameter. The asteroid has an absolute magnitude of 27.6, a semimajor axis of about 1 AU and it takes it approximately one year to fully orbit the Sun. 

Besides close approach to Earth on Saturday, 2017 DR109 will also fly by the Moon about five hours later at a distance of 3.06 LD, or 1.17 million kilometers. Next fly-by of this asteroid to our planet is expected to take place on February 26, 2019 when it will pass at a much larger distance of approximately 23 LD (8.8 million kilometers). 

On February 22, there were 1,882 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) detected and none of them is on a collision course with our planet. PHAs are asteroids larger than 330 feet (100 meters) that can come closer to Earth than 19.5 LD. 

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 17,800 NEOs. Only this month 92 such objects were detected.

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