Saturday, May 12, 2018

House-Sized Asteroid to Pass By Earth on Sunday

Credit: NASA

A house-sized asteroid, named 2016 HP6, is expected to fly by Earth on Sunday, May 13 at around 1:05 UTC. The object will miss our planet with a relative velocity of 5.6 km/s at a distance of about 2.16 lunar distances (LD), or 830,000 kilometers.

2016 HP6 is an Amor-type asteroid detected on April 29, 2016 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. 

Observations indicate that 2016 HP6 has a diameter between 16 and 49 meters. The space rock has an absolute magnitude of 25.4 and orbits the Sun approximately every two years at a distance of about 1.59 AU. 

Besides the fly-by of Earth on Sunday, 2016 HP6 will also pass by the Moon some seven hours later at a distance of approximately 2.94 LD (1.13 million kilometers). Next close approach of this asteroid to Earth will occur on May 7, 2020 when it will miss our planet at a larger distance of about 4.33 LD (1.66 million kilometers). 

On May 12, there were almost 2,000 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 18,200 NEOs. Only this year 651 such objects were identified.

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