Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Two Truck-Sized Asteroids Fly By Earth

Two newly discovered small asteroids, designated 2017 UU2 and 2017 UK3, missed the Earth today at a safe distance. 2017 UU2 passed by our planet at 19:18 UTC at a distance of about 2.1 lunar distances (LD), or 806,000 kilometers, while 2017 UK3 around 21:08 UTC at approximately 1.38 LD, what corresponds to 530,000 kilometers.

2017 UU2 is an Apollo-type asteroid that was first observed October 21, 2017 by the Mount Lemmon Survey (MLS), which utilizes a 1.52 m cassegrain reflector telescope at Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. MLS is one of the most prolific surveys when it comes to discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). So far, it has detected more than 50,000 minor planets.

According to astronomers, 2017 UU2 has an absolute magnitude of 26.4, and estimated diameter between 9 and 31 meters. The space rock orbits the sun every 2.45 years at a distance of about 1.81 AU. It passed by the Earth with a relative velocity of 11.31 km/s, swooshing also by the Moon at a distance of approximately 2.5 LD (960,000 kilometers).

2017 UK3 is also an Apollo-type asteroid and was detected on October 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.

Observations reveal that 2017 UK3 has an estimated size between 6 and 20 meters, and an absolute magnitude of 27.4. This near-Earth object (NEO) has an orbital period of about 2.75 years and a semimajor axis of nearly 2 AU. Today, this space rock flew by our planer with a relative velocity of 13.31 km/s. Moreover, it also passed by the Moon at a distance of 0.79 LD. Next close approach of this asteroid to Earth is expected on February 18, 2057 when it will fly by at about 8 LD.

On October 24, there were 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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