Saturday, October 21, 2017

Giant Asteroid to Pass By Earth on Sunday

A giant asteroid known as 1999 VP11 is slated to fly by the Earth on Sunday, October 22 at a safe distance of about 5.8 lunar distances (LD), or 2.2 million kilometers. The space rock will swoosh by our planet with a velocity of 21.2 km/s at approximately 11:02 UTC.

1999 VP11 is an Apollo-type asteroid with an estimated diameter between 570 and 1,300 meters and an absolute magnitude of 18.6. It has a semimajor axis of 1.08 AU and orbits the sun every 412 days.

1999 VP11 was discovered on November 7, 1997 as part of the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project. LINEAR is an MIT Lincoln Laboratory program funded by the United States Air Force and NASA, dedicated for the systematic detection and tracking of near-Earth objects (NEOs).

Besides the close approach on Sunday, 1999 VP11 is expected to pass by Mercury almost one year later - on October 4, 2018. It will miss Solar System’s innermost planet within 30 LD (11.5 million kilometers). Next close approach of this asteroid to Earth will occur on March 9, 2023, when it will fly by our planet at a distance of about 100 LD (38 million kilometers).

Currently, there are 1,847 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.

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