Sunday, January 13, 2019

Truck-Sized Asteroid Detected This Week to Fly By Earth on Monday

Credit: NASA

A newly discovered truck-sized asteroid, designated 2019 AU6, will fly by the Earth on Monday, January 14, at approximately 7:39 UTC. The space rock is expected miss our planet with a relative velocity of 8.9 km/s at a distance of about 2.56 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 983,000 kilometers.

2019 AU6 is an Aten-type asteroid first spotted on January 8, 2019 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.

Observations show that 2019 AU6 has an estimated diameter between 9 and 28 meters. The object an absolute magnitude of 26.6 and a semimajor axis of 0.98 AU. It takes it nearly one year (356 days) to fully orbit the sun.

Around one hour and twenty minutes after the fly-by of Earth, the asteroid is expected to pass by the Moon at a distance of 3.57 LD (1.37 million kilometers). Next close approach of 2019 AU6 to our planet will occur on January 9, 2020, when it will pass at a much larger distance of 61.5 LD (23.6 million kilometers).

On January 13, there were nearly 2,000 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 (7.5 million kilometers).

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 19,500 NEOs. Only this month, 122 such objects have been detected.

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