Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Large Asteroid to Fly By Earth on Wednesday

A large asteroid, named 2017 VR12, is expected to whiz by Earth on Wednesday, March 7 at around 7:52 UTC. The object will miss our planet with a relative velocity of 6.3 km/s at a safe distance of about 3.8 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 1.46 million kilometers.

2017 VR12 was detected November 10, 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 VR12 is an Amor-type near-Earth object (NEO) and was classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). PHAs are asteroids larger than 100 meters that can come closer to Earth than 19.5 LD. Astronomers estimate that 2017 VR12 has a diameter between 140 and 450 meters.

2017 VR12 has an absolute magnitude of 20.6, semimajor axis of approximately 1.37 AU and orbits the Sun every 1.6 years. Besides the fly-by to Earth, the asteroid will also pass by the Moon about a half hour later, at a distance of 3 LD (1.15 million kilometers). Next close approach of 2017 VR12 to Earth will take place on March 19, 2026, when it will fly by our planet at a much larger distance of 21 LD, or 8.06 million kilometers.

On March 6, there were 1,882 PHAs detected, however none of them is on a collision course with our planet. To date, astronomers have discovered more than 17,800 NEOs. Only this year more than 300 such objects were identified.

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