September 7th, 2010
09:28 PM ET

Two asteroids to pass close to Earth on Wednesday

Two small asteroids in unrelated orbits will pass within the moon's distance of the Earth on Wednesday, according to NASA.

It's an unusual event that shows the need for closer monitoring of near space for Earth-threatening encounters, a scientist with the program said.

The objects don't pose a threat to Earth, and they will not be visible to the naked eye, said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Program, which tracks potentially hazardous asteroids and comets within 28 million miles of Earth.

The objects will visible from Earth as tiny specks of light with the help of moderate-sized amateur telescopes, he said.

Near-Earth asteroid 2010 RX30, which is estimated to be 32 to 65 feet in size, will pass within 154,000 miles of Earth at 5:51 a.m. ET Wednesday. The second object, 2010 RF12, estimated to be 20 to 46 feet in size, will pass within 49,088 miles of Earth at 5:12 pm ET.

In case you were wondering, that means the two asteroids will pass within 0.6 and 0.2 lunar distances from the Earth, respectively. The first will be closest to Earth over the north Pacific, and the second, over Antarctica.

Roughly 50 million objects pass through near-Earth space each day, Yeomans said. But what makes this situation noteworthy is that these two asteroids are passing so close to Earth on the same day and that NASA spotted them so far in advance.

"Things like this happen every day that we simply don’t know about because we don’t have the telescopes large enough to find them or surveys that are looking full-time," he said. "This demonstrates the system's working on some level, but we need larger telescopes and more of them to find objects that are coming this close."

The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, discovered both objects Sunday morning during a routine monitoring of the skies, NASA said.

The Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, first received the observations Sunday morning, determined preliminary orbits and concluded both objects would pass within the distance of the moon about three days later.

Yeomans described the discovery as a warning shot in a field of study of low-probability events that have global, high-impact consequences. He said that it was only when scientists began looking for near-Earth objects in the 1990s that they realized there was a "problem."

"We have only recently appreciated how many of these objects are in near Earth's space and [it's] best that we keep track of them and find them," he said. "I think this is Mother Nature's way of firing a shot over the bow and warning Earth-based astronomers that we have a lot of work to do."

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soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. John S.

    I guess I'd better go find a girl! I don't want to die a virgin!

    Now everybody take a deep breath, chill, and forget you ever saw this piece of news.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Canpotex

    The planet has gone to hell. Its time its completely destroyed.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Vesuvius

    It would have been cool if they smashed into the moon...or each other.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. tp1776

    I wish this story included information whether these near-earth passes one time passes, or are the asteroids in an orbit that may take them closer to earth in the future, due to passing within earth's gravity.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. CaverDonna

    All you have to do is check out NASA.gov or the Near Earth Asteroid observation team websites to see that these events happen every day. Tons of material rains down on our Earth each day, it's just that these small as objects will be of the few visible, with some luck, through our scopes or if we got really lucky and they graze our atmosphere and burn!!!! Whoo hoo! Do y'all never look up? Is the light pollution so bad where you live and play that you never bother? Do something about it like joining one of the groups helping stop the hideous light pollution we endure. What do you think a "shooting star" is anyway?
    And to you all so all frightened by this fun event, it's Apophis, the miles across asteroid coming closer to the planet than our geosynched satt's (way closer than our Moon) in 2029 and if it pases through what is called the "keyhole," a could be a earth changing event hit in 2032. Probably won't happen, but could. Look it up at sites that aren't doomsday Maya this and that drama sites that are simply filled with ignorant claims. The Maya were awesome astronomers, but they couldn't predict the end of their own civilization! Think about it.
    Remember to look up in the direction of the crossing tonight! Find a local astronomy group viewing tonight with scopes and they'll happliy share! Enjoy seeing the beauty and wonder of our space. Leave the doomsday stuff out of it.
    The question of huge asteroid hits are not IF! They are WHEN. It happens every day. All one needs do is look at all of the meterorites for sale on the web and on eBay.
    Just enjoy this folks! :O) Go to Nasa.gov, visit SOHO.org and the N.E.O. websites, join your local astronomy club or visit your local planetarium! Learn aabout it and teach your kids about wonders of space and by all means, get a lawn chair on a dark night and spend some quiet time with your beautiful sky and people you love!

    September 8, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. ZOOMER165

    to bad it doesn't land on the white house.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      Hope it hits YOUR house.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. JJ

    It's news because the two are passing around the same time. Yes near earth objects do swing by us all the time. 2012?? Well thats just the end of the Myan calendar. (So what)? the Myans were amazing but certainly didn't know anything more than we do about the end of the earth.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Many, many people will die in the year 2012!
      Many, many people will die in the year 2011!
      Many, many people will die in the year 2010!
      Many, many people will die in the year 2050!
      Mostly because there are many, many, many people alive.
      Mayan calendar indeed! It's ended a couple of times and they recalculated it again.
      Oh no! My 2010 calendar is going to expire on 31-Dec-2010! The world will be hung over the next day!

      September 8, 2010 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ben Smith

    This is just part of the vast liberal conspiracy called science. They're trying to make us believe in global warming and modern medicine so we will all accept evolution and burn in hell. The henchmen of Satan are making these asteroid finders make up data. Bright lights in the sky with amateur telescopes? Lies. They are satellites made by demon possessed scientists trying to deceive us.

    JP

    dsafadsfoajdsfpoasdf

    NO, EVOLUTION IS NOT AN ATHEISTIC THEORY AND IT DOES NOT CANCEL OUT GOD.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ben Smith

    YOU CAN BELIEVE IN A GOD AND STILL BE RELIGIOUS. odsafjpo

    September 8, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  10. DON62

    Everybody has to beleive in somthing,so i beleive i'll have another beer.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mr.X

    Whew! Glad I still have my Y2K bunker stocked!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mr.X

    Of course IF the asteroids miss us they will just reanimate the zombies so we are in a lose-lose situation here.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ryan

    A meteorite large enough to totally wipe out a city the size of New York hits the Earth once a century. Most of them blow up harmlessly over the ocean or in the middle of nowhere (like the Tunguska meteor), but one day one WILL either impact or explode over a populated area. We need to know about them ahead of time, even a 48 hour evacuation notice could save millions of lives.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. Matt

    To all the people that think CNN or some government body is trying to hide huge news from us: this isn't big news. They aren't going to hit us. If they were going to hit us, it would be big news. They just found them Sunday, it takes a while to to track them and calculate the orbits. They certainly aren't going to have an early press release that says "Asteroids coming, we don't know if they will hit earth." Because we all know that the only words the press (CNN included) would see and report are "Asteroids", "will", "hit" and "earth".

    September 8, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. JJ

    Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

    September 8, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
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