Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Asteroid 2010 WC9 Whizzes by Earth

Asteroid 2010 WC9 speeding past the dark nebulae B59 and B244. Credit: Kos Coronaios

An Apollo-type asteroid, known as 2010 WC9, passed by the Earth on Tuesday, May 15 at around 22:05 UTC with a relative velocity of 12.8 km/s. The object swooshed by our planet at a relatively close but safe distance of approximately 0.53 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 203,500 kilometers.

2010 WC9 was detected by Mount Lemmon Survey (MLS) on November 30, 2010. The survey utilizes a 1.52-meter cassegrain reflector telescope operated by the Steward Observatory at Mount Lemmon Observatory, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson, Arizona. MLS is currently one of the most prolific surveys worldwide, especially for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). 

According to astronomers, 2010 WC9 has an absolute magnitude of 23.6 and an estimated diameter between 36 and 110 meters. The space rock orbits the Sun every 409 days at a distance of about 1.08 AU. 

2010 WC9 also flew by the Moon on May 16, 2018 at 4:06 UTC at a distance of approximately 1.13 LD (434,000 kilometers). Next close approach of this asteroid to our planet is expected to take place on October 17, 2019, when it will miss the Earth at a much greater distance of about 117 LD (44.9 million kilometers). 

On May 16, there were 1,907 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) detected and 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 18,200 NEOs. Only this month 52 such objects were detected.

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