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Christopher Low

More interesting asteroid information

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I have just been updating myself with the current situation regarding the wonderful world of NEA's (Near Earth Asteroids) at the IAU Minor Planet Center. They have a list there of the most dangerous asteroids (those whose orbits currently approach the orbit of Earth to within 7.5 million kms). This list currently has a total of 414 asteroids, and displays information regarding close approaches of the future.One particular asteroid caught my attention. This is designated as 2000 WO107, and it has been seen at 2 oppositions. This means that its orbit is reasonably well determined, although this is almost certain to be refined in the future. However, calculations based on the current orbital elements indicate that it will approach the Earth to around 81,000 kms on 1st December 2140. This is around 40,000 kms closer than the recent approach by 2002 MN.Two other aspects of this asteroid make it even more dangerous. Firstly, it is an ATEN asteroid. This is the type whose orbital periods are less than that of the Earth, and this means that it spends a large amount of time on the SUNWARD side of our planet. If it hadn't been recently discovered, this object would have been an even more serious threat. Secondly, it has an absolute magnitude of 19.4. This is the magnitude (or brightness) that the object would have at a distance of 1 AU from both the Earth and the Sun (1 AU, or Astronomical Unit, is the distance from the Earth to the Sun; around 150 million kms). 2002 MN had an absolute magnitude of 23.4 (far fainter than 2000 WO107), and this object was the size a football field. It would seem (based on its absolute magnitude) that this object is AT LEAST half a kilometre in diameter. This is rather too large for comfort, and although this isn't large enough to cause a complete global catastrophe, it is large enough to a COLOSSAL amount of continental damage.Obviously, refinements in the orbit will modify the close approach distance in the future. It is very unlikely to hit our planet, but the probability of a hit isn't zero. I'll be keeping a close watch on updates at the Minor Planet Center in the future, and I will keep you all updated with "interesting" developments.Of course, 2140 is well over a century from now, but then this is a KNOWN object. Just how many others of this size are out there ?Chris Low,ENGLAND.

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Chris, I thought I read somewhere that there is going to be a very close approach in 2024. Have you seen anything on it?

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Eric,There is nothing as close as the 2000 WO107 flyby currently listed in the NEO database at the Minor Planet Center. It's possible that a newly discovered object was initially calculated to make a close Earth approach in 2024, but more observations would have refined the orbit, and this would have altered the orbital elements.I will have a look to see what object this COULD have been.Chris Low,ENGLAND.

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Eric,I think that you may be referring to the close approach of 1999 AN10 in 2027. I remember that preliminary calculations indicated that this could possibly make a VERY close approach to the Earth, but the Minor Planet Center currently has it passing by our planet at roughly the distance of the Moon. This is still very close by astronomical standards though, and is in fact the second closest approach of a known asteroid in the next century.Chris Low,ENGLAND.

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It's interesting to note that, of the 41 known asteroids to have made close approaches to within 1.5 million kms of the Earth, the one that was last seen over 60 years ago (Hermes) is also the LARGEST. We really do need to rediscover this object as soon as possible............Chris Low,ENGLAND.

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A soberig thought is that in history (usually) long past, we HAVE been hit with many things. Or the eruption of various volcanoes which have caused several years of dramatic weather changes. (Krakatoa comes to mind). So, it's really a normal event. For a planet, but certainly not for my back yard, haha. "Local township wiped out by asteroid, details at 11." ugh.

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I already feel safer, Chris, knowing you are on watch. I will know when to start worrying when I see you running down the street yelling "It's all over- we haven't got a prayer!":-lolCan you post a url for this website that has you so engrossed, please? :-)

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