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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Filed under: Earth • Space
soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. Jimmy the Big Fat Greek

    Please asteroids. Come to our planet and wipe out humanity. We need to go away and die.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • trentwellman

      Sounds like you need to go to therapy.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Okay you die first, I'll make my judgment after you do it.

      September 8, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Old Grump

    Oops! Missed again!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. MarkRH

    NASA needs to hire those Hollywood sci-fi special effects people. They always come up with solutions to these kinds of problems just in the nick of time. Then NASA should hire a few spiritualists (maybe that Gainesville, FLA church) to enlist Divine Providence in redirecting the space rocks safely away from Earth, or at least to the areas of the Earth with the ungodly masses, including France & Mexico, and we are sure to remain safe in the good old US of A.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. curtegg

    There is one coming in 2027 that we still don't know if it will hit or miss us. Maybe by then humanity will wipe it self out fighting over resources because we can't control our population or our egos. Now that we are passed the world peak oil point and after reading the German gov't report about it, expect more wars soon.

    Happy trails.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    pagall81 said he is worried about "his wife and kids". He won't have to worry about anything if there is a near earth impact of any appreciable impact from an asteroid similar to what impacted the Gulf of Mexico and led to the demise of the dinosaurs.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. me

    cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ed Ward II

    There is no money to monitor these things Obama has cancelled the Space Program in order to spend more money on illegals and deadbeats.

    September 8, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. MM

    If we can't do anything about them, what the hell difference does it make if we know about them?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. trey

    finally the world is comin to an end they need to kill all the jews nd rednecks

    September 8, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr.X

      and the Dutch!

      September 8, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Area51

    What would YOUR plan be NASA to stop them if they are in a direct path with earth?

    September 8, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. Naja

    "Our object collision budget is $1,000,000 which allows us to track about 3% of the sky. And, begging your pardon, sir, but it's a big-ass sky!"

    Keep NASA... we're really gonna need 'em someday!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. Position Zen

    I check this site as one of my news sources and this is the first time I've heard of this. Despite reading just now that NASA has "spotted them so far in advance" but finding out that one has already passed by and another due in about 8-9 hours. It also makes me wonder what the other "roughly 50 million" objects are that no one talks about. Either way I have lost trust in anything NASA reports to the public even if we help fund their missions and technology. Well when the "big one" is on the path to hit Earth I hope they at least give as a few hours to kiss our loved ones goodbye.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. Stress

    One asteroid can collide in Pakistan who are generating millions of terrorist and other can choose his target 🙂

    September 8, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mehcomets

    That is amazing! Wish I had a telescope to see this. I only have night vision goggles to see UFO's and stealth military vessels.

    September 8, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rajesh khanal

    They should come towards us,at least there will be some topics to talk....

    September 8, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
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