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. DR2012coatlicue

    Yes, more money to build their "arks" and underground bunkers. of course we'll all be watching American Idol!! LOL wake up AMERIKA

    September 7, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. speck of dirt on a flys back

    This was news worthy? 30-60 feet. Maybe if the objects were 300 to 1500 ft. Yeah, I'd be concerned. I want my click back

    September 7, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebecca

      Yeah, if they weren't traveling at like 8,000 miles per hour I'd be giggling right now.

      September 7, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • benson

      what if they were a few miles larger, enough to wipe out all life, and we just heard it would hit tomorrow since NASA only discovered it sunday...

      September 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • ODA155

      ...hmmm, so if it falls on your house, is it OK if we laugh?

      September 8, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. sam

    so, by looking at the graphic, i can tell that earth's gravitational pull is moving RF12 away from the moon and towards itself. fortunately, both earth and its moon will not be affected.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Yar

    Maybe a big rock is gonna hit in 2012. A big rock took out all the dinosaurs a very long time ago and there hasn't been a huge hit since, so we may very well be long overdue.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. benson

    Its too bad about asteroids wiping out all life on earth but Obama says NASA should be focused on making muslims feel good about themselves.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • kman

      You're an idiot!

      September 8, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • BOMARC507

      Now, now... Let's be gentle and not call others any names. After all, a big enough rock from space will kill both those with foolish talk and everyone else. Mankind tickles me when they argue over most subjects. Ants don't care and they stay around come disaster or not. We don't hear them voicing good / bad / great / stupid opinions about themselves or matters on Earth.

      They just do what they do and leave the OTHER ants to do whatever they do. And it works for them.

      Don't believe it? Go outside and see how many of them there are in your own backyard and then look up the total (estimated) population of mankind on Earth. Arguing (or even being concerned) about a rock hitting Earth is meaningless. Man has NO means to predict, stop – or even deal with the event when it happens. Will affect you, me and those that make stupid comments.

      September 8, 2010 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Antano1970

      Anyone who doesnt believe that is the truth is an idiot. The America our fathers and grandfathers fought for is dead and gone. Now bleeding hearts allow everything they spent and sacrificed to be for nothing. Enjoy your new languages America. It wont be english for much longer.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. DR2012coatlicue

    You know it's funny reading you're comments! all of you!! except for the intelligent ones... people we are sitting ducks in the universe!! we're nothing but a grain of salt!! it will happen soon! nothing lasts forever...

    September 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gadman

    I wonder if the moon's gravitational pull was factored into the prediction that it would not hit Earth. Things that make you go hmmm.......

    September 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      No, they probably didn't consider that. Good call...

      September 7, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • GayFish

      Of course it was, are you kidding? That's a pretty HUGE factor to leave out when calculating the orbit of NEAR EARTH OBJECTS.

      You don't actually think some guy (you) on CNN's comment board thought of something NASA didn't do you?

      September 8, 2010 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Elendil

      Gayfish, be careful with those assumptions! NASA managed to miscalculate a satellites’ orbit around Mars not too long ago resulting in millions of dollars down the drain.

      September 8, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |


    September 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • floridamom

      Well put!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. maswa


    September 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul NYC

    Once again, science trumps ignorance. Although truth be told, it is a futile effort to educate the willfully ignorant.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dr britt

    i like turtles

    September 7, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jeff

    Space junk the size of a car burns up in the atmosphere every week!

    September 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derek C.

      Haven't seen any 40 foot cars.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Max

    Yeah, let's spend sh!t load of money so we can see them.... once we see one coming towards us, you know one of those global killers, ... then what? Well, nothing. .... We spent millions of dollars to invent pen that could write in 0 gravity and Russians .... used pencil no2.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • moonshot

      It is a good idea to look out for these objects. If we discover a threatening object early enough, we COULD devise a plan to do something about it. It wouldn't be impossible to move an asteroid. We only have to nudge it enough to change its orbit so that it won't be a threat.

      Luckily people like you are not in charge of anything. To say, "well we can't do anything about it, so we might as well stick our heads in the sand and do nothing", is incredibly foolish and ignorant.

      Oh, and by the way, you know that whole "we spent million of dollars making a pen that will write in space" thing is a myth right? It isn't true.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. oblahma

    September 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Eddie

    So, they want to use this as an argument for more money for more telescopes. They lucked out and saw these two coming. They have no idea how many near earth passes occur every year. Unless they can come up with a way to steer the things away from the planet, more telescopes will only allow them to see more of them and spread more fear.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Area51

      Amen to that one!. More Telescopes means more fear. Invest in somthing that can stop them, not bring fear in the world.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
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