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. Rummy

    "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...."

    Gee, we would really like to help you guys, but see, we need all that money for the military. Sorry.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. simon

    Maybe predator's mothership dropped him off.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jamngemin

    Isn't life supposed to be a "surprise", the way we live it and love not expecting a advanced notice from NASA or or government of so a big rock is destined to hit us....just isn't gonna happen...we are a grain of salt and we are destroying our home without outside what does is matter if we go BOOM! we enjoyed it right?

    September 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • floridamom

      my sentiments exactly!

      September 8, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. John Smith

    AMG THE END IS NEAR !!! the bible says so

    September 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Same way it's been saying for, what, two thousand years now?

      September 8, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. Noble9

    Asteroids my *ss. The aliens are finally coming back.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Your Friend in Colorado

      Hi Noble9:

      Our Space Brothers could surely do a better job running this planet than the corporations and thugs that are currently ransacking it.

      September 8, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. Awesome_Opossum

    they are really alien motherships inhabited by tiny space aliens coming to visit me. but not you.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. JOSE


    September 8, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. so let's see

    A giant rock of what composition? Let's see if we can bring it in for a closer look... is there even a way to harness it, if science needed it?

    September 8, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. so let's see

    i'm ready for 12-24-36

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

      I'd rather get ready for 36-24-36. Har!

      September 8, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    Do you honestly thing if the earth were in danger of a large meteor strike we will know about it.We will be going about our mundane lives and in a bright flash of light it will be history.

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

      You want something to keep you up at nights? Look up gamma ray bursts at some point. No warning, no real defense possible – just a big wave of radiation that comes out of nowhere and sterilizes the planet straight down to the bacteria. And we don't even know what causes them.

      September 8, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Actually Jon, what causes gamma ray bursts IS known. Supernova and hypernova both cause one type. The heavier type is with a neutron start collapse, as happens with some supernovas.
      The burst is primarily beamed out at the poles. BUT, there isn't anything in range of us that could even cook the upper ionosphere.

      September 8, 2010 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    After reading many of these comments it's understandable why the U.S.A. is in such a downward descent. Most of these people could not recite the alphabet starting from "A" if sober. Seriously, we're in trouble. I doubt if 95% of those commenting here can spell DUH if spotted the "D" and the "U".

    September 8, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • NoGods.

      so other than point your finger and complain what r u going to do about it?

      September 8, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • BOMARC507

      Come on, Bill... Lighten up. You KNEW this was CNN and not "Nature" or the "Journal of High Energy Physics" when you clicked on it. Why would you care to get upset with the "guys sittin' around the barrel on the porch of the General Store chewing the fat and snuff?" CNN just puts news like this out there so that they can see if more traffic will be generated than at or

      Note that there are NO links to sites where either (a) more information can be researched or (b) where "based-on-measurable-facts", concrete judgments can be found.

      News today is not so much for information as it is for all the ads you see at the top, bottom and sides of the webpage. Watch a CNN video and see what information comes up first. Why disparage the "roaring crowd" that you KNEW CNN was assembling?

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

    They are going to miss us...........Do you really think they would tell us if they were going to hit the Earth?

    September 8, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • dcs

      Who are you calling “they”? The astronomers are not all government employees! We would know. The news would get out. Besides, if there were to be an impact worth commenting on, would you really want to know about it?

      September 8, 2010 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sparky

    I would think the the news would have occurred when the asteroid was approaching earth. Not when it missed, and is now going on it merry way to some other part of the galaxy.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. June

    Some arguments are stupid. some make sense. people get for real. i would love to see your faces and to see how brave you are if something does really hit the earth.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jon

    Hrm. But presuming the objects had slipped through and were going to hit the Earth, it doesn't sound like either object is large enough to be potential planet-killers. Anyone seen any information on the potential damage that might be caused by objects of this size?

    September 8, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
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