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. Ifeanyi

    Where are all the world powers? this is time to show leadership, at least, we should have known one month ago. Where is Iran who want to be a world power, to fight their enemies, we already have enough weapons of mass destruction coming from outer space (enemies). pls invest in this course and be a world power country.

    September 8, 2010 at 4:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. JEWElZ

    Ugh... if we all die, why blame it on obama? the two people you should be blaming when that day comes is your mother and father for doing it and concieving you! 2012 is nearing.. havent yalls been watching the news? mudslides in asia.. hurricanes in the atlantic.. its just a matter of time before we all instinct.. although i do wish, hope n pray that if a meteor does happen.. it will only kill all you racist people out there!

    September 8, 2010 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. Gabe

    2012 Ppl the signs r comin slowly!!

    September 8, 2010 at 4:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Kris Wood

      I'm still freakin on Y2K yo.

      September 8, 2010 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kenny

    I wonder if we can get them to slow long enough for us to load up Sarah Palin and her Tea Party?

    September 8, 2010 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joe V.

    Kind of makes you wish we hadn't thrown away the Saturn 5 doesn't it?

    September 8, 2010 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. kari

    I think we need to change and ask the lord for forgiveness.he gave us this beautiful life and we dont appreciate it.and to make it clear no one knows when the world will end but no 2012 just bcause the mayas said so.god bless u all

    September 8, 2010 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      Do you have even 3 working brain cells? I think not.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jordan Vais

    I reckon someone should pratice nuking the asteriods, surley the Chineses should have a go, the big one wont be that far away and pratice dose make perfect.

    September 8, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. Wat is goin on heerz?

    At some point life on earth is going to be wiped out. It may be tomorrow, it may be several million years from now. Fact.

    There are quite a few people on this blog that need to take spelling 101. Embarrassing. Fact.

    Bush AND Obama both were/are terrible presidents. Sheep keep electing the wolves to rule. Fact.

    September 8, 2010 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. USARight

    With all this material close to Earth, obviously Earth as a planet has NOT cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Does this mean that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) needs to reclassify Earth as a non planet?

    September 8, 2010 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. eamon


    Isn't the area known as the Gulf Of Mexico an ancient meteor impact site ?
    No,it´s a recent BP impact site.

    September 8, 2010 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Snu Snu

    Oh's no's! The Heaven's Gate Cult was about 15 years off! They should have held off on drinking the cool-aid until these little guys came around. After all, its easier to hop aboard an abject thats travelling 0.2 lunar distance from the earth rather than one thats over 4 lunar distance from us. I guess that's why that cult failed. 😛

    September 8, 2010 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Snu Snu

    That's no moon....its a space station!

    September 8, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
    • HangemHIGH

      I have a bad feeling about this!

      September 8, 2010 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tired Truth

    Hey folks just in case, maybe its our last goodbye,lol, keep on smilling and praying,early to bed and early to rise makes AMERICANS healthy wealthy and wise,respect our presidents as we know if we dont respect our presidents,world will not respect us,2012 is not real (only GOD knows that), JESUS will be here soon so fear GOD, don't burn QURAN,if we don't respect or love muslims,we should'nt burn coz of the globol warming,ozone layer,trees,etc...,muslims should move the Mosque away from ground zero, muslim means obedient(true servant of GOD),do you want president OBAMA to be obedient to AMERICA and AMERICANS,TRUTH speaks out of eyes, knowledge can only be measured by patience,so smile like OBAMA coz GOD loves you.

    September 8, 2010 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Listen! Hear those voices? They're calling you. They're telling you to do something. Listen to those voices. Obey the voices.
      They're telling you to take your lithium. Obey them, take the lithium. Lithium is your friend.

      September 8, 2010 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      Tired Truth – How was it riding on the short bus when you were in school?

      September 8, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. HangemHIGH

    NEWSFLASH! Your ALL gonna die someday and there isn't anything you can do about it........Wanna spend your life consumed with anguish about it? This discourse leads to Prozac sales rising...........Oh. no....The end is near!

    September 8, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Speak for yourself! I won't die. I'm immortal.
      Or was that amoral...

      September 8, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. justmeanddog

    Take heed all ye non believers. Behold the power of the one true God. For do you not all tremble when the great "God" Gravity's tiny messengers come to call, but fear not for this I say onto you, when the end of time comes the "angel instruments" of your destruction will darken the heavens, and the air that you breathe will ignite, and the earth you stand upon will melt beneath your feet and the waters of the earth will vanish and all will be still as it was in the beginning. For this will be the "word" made manifest and you will know the power of Gravity, but until then just budget for some clean underwear and enjoy the show.

    September 8, 2010 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
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