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. Richard

    If these rocks were estimated to strike Earth this week, what the hell does it matter if we know or not? It's not like we could fire Bruce Willis into space with a portable rocket motor in his pocket.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Nonsense! Arm the flatulinium device. Set velocity for ludicrous speed!

      September 8, 2010 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. Riley

    Now, the real question. How can I blame this on President Obama...

    September 8, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Your Friend in Colorado

      Hello Riley:

      Yes, somebody will try to blame this on the President!

      September 8, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Immegresh

      Specialy he is the only Presidant on earth......

      September 8, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. timi

    Hope it lands in the middle east a nice big one. LALALA KABOOM!

    September 8, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. billp

    These must be Obama's fault, and the fact that both shots will miss the Earth is proof of his incompetence.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. Luis Fuentes

    "NASA spotted them so far in advance"

    A day? Come on....

    September 8, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Your Friend in Colorado

    Dear Planet Earth:

    Better start target practice on these pesky space lumps.

    I believe it was Carl Sagan who said that there is one good use for nuclear weapons: blowing up asteroids.

    September 8, 2010 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Veggiedude

      When they are this close, nukes still won't stop a disaster if they are on collision course. It just means we get hit by thousands of objects instead of one big one, and most of them will be enough to wipe out cities.

      September 8, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. Crazy Guy on street.

    WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!

    September 8, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. michael

    I want to know if the space station will be able to see it. Be a bad ass photo.

    September 8, 2010 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. macoirus

    (I dislike obama, but i thought it was funny when i thought of it)... ITS OBAMAS FAULT

    September 8, 2010 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. Walking with Dinosaurs

    So basically, we haven't learned a single thing since the dinosaur times. While we're busy trying to eat each other, a comet will wipe life out....again. Oh Earth, when will we learn?

    September 8, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. freecam

    If either asteroid would crash into Earth the impact would kill everything within a 100 mile (160 KM) radius. Asteroids travel at between 11 and 20 KM per SECOND (escape velocity). I hope I never see one hit or I'm dead in a second.

    September 8, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. macoirus

    now that i think of it, the guys calling for more visual on earths perimeter... now if i werent mistaken, i heard obama ordered NASA to work on Muslim relations... so yeah! it is Obamas fault... in a far reaching, ideologic sort of way, but thats the world this man lives in so it has to be his fault

    September 8, 2010 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. ozzy

    god said in quran i destroyed one century with the meteor rain they had stronger bulding but my power more stronger .... they touched man to man but i created woman for the can find their bulding in mud after i keep it to end of the day..for lesson ...pastor has to get message i think god sending before burn the quran...god said for quran its under my power i will keep it islam my power because last law for more messenger for them..islam is cover to 4 books ...1david 2 mosah 3 isaah (jesus)4 muhammed pbuh..4 book s is law from the god..belive or not..

    September 8, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. macoirus

    type 1 if you wish McCain were president. 1. One. 1. One.

    September 8, 2010 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • GayFish

      I am so glad McCain is not president I could cry. And it's been over a year.

      To think we almost had SARAH FREAKING PALIN as vice president of the united states of america is a scary thought. And it would have been your fault.

      September 8, 2010 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. macoirus

    also. 2012 is NOT a Hoax, thats the day your expected to die from heart disease, yeah, those articles werent about earth, they were about your eating habits and your large stomach

    September 8, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
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