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."

Post by:
Filed under: Earth • Space
soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. ratfacedgirl

    @Jedi Falcon...You had me rolling with your comment. Thanks for the laugh 😀

    September 8, 2010 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. fnort

    You people are morons. Asteroids aren't more than a regional threat, if at all. The Torino scale is used to rate the danger of an asteroid impact; the highest-rated object ever, Apophis, was rated a 4 because it had a "1% or greater chance of collision capable of regional devastation." Ooh, 1%, that's scary. The calculated probability was 1:37, and that was later downgraded to around 1:250000.

    And oh wait, none of them have the potential to end human life anyway, not even the really big ones. And at least it's easier to spot the big ones than the small ones. Chances are that everyone alive today probably has a greater chance of all simultaneously getting a heart attack than being killed by an asteroid within the next hundred years.

    Is it good to be vigilant? Yes; but no reason to panic about it or even get the slightest notion that humanity is doomed.

    September 8, 2010 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    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." .... In other words, I'm going to try to scare as many idiots as possible so I can get my hands on some government grant money.

    September 8, 2010 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Crap

    Is there a some sugar stocked up in walmart? My beer ain't sweet enouhg. Anyone?

    September 8, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. johncc

    It is important to understand that several factors determine early detection: the size of the object(s), the number of expensive telescopes dedicated to searching, and the number of Master and PhD-level people employed in the search and charting of NEOs. Money, people. "Why weren't we told?" Because we did not pay for the information. The good news in really big ones can be tracked more easily. What would we do with two years notice of one capable of knocking us back to the stone age? Think about it.

    September 8, 2010 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      It WOULD be nice if they could track some NEO that is highly mettalic and guide in for a soft impact, loads of cheap iron!
      Of course, with MY luck they'd guide it in and it'd land on my vacation property...
      Letter in the mail;
      Dear property owner,
      Due to random factors secondary to trajectory irregularities of irregular object entering the Earth's atmosphere, our asteroid intercept and retrieval program guided our new asteroid onto your property. The US Government, as you are no doubt aware, is highly interested in this object and has initiated Eminent Domain proceedings on your property that has US Government property now embedded on it. You will be fairly compensated with a check of the amount of $.025 for your loss.

      September 8, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Believe..

    At some point in time, we as people would have to believe in God and His Glory... If we don't without repentance, we will definitely see His Wrath.. Some don't believe that it'll happen, but it's fine. You can't make someone or some people think outside of the box or realistically to whereas common sense would set into their minds. Everything is not considered science, but it's a scientific fact that science cannot answer all questions. And since it can't explain everything, some would try to establish imaginary intellect to describe the unknown.. All to avoid God's Grace, Power, and very Existence. Thank You Jesus for the life I have been blessed with. I made it what it is and I thank You for the good and bad times.. I still love You O God... I Praise You.. In the name of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

    September 8, 2010 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      How utterly stupid.

      September 8, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    Yeah, yeah, everybody talks a big game about Doomsday, but they are all show and no go. When one of these nitwits can actually produce something other than empty claims and daydreams, I'll be interested.

    September 8, 2010 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. helon ===

    New website is starting operating! ! ! ! New shop, new design and new items arrival…
    and the purchase of a gift, oh limited number of donated stock lasts!
    We need your supported and suggestion, thanks a lot in advance! ===

    September 8, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. jobalou

    anybody thought about a possible impact with the space station.
    and there will be an impact someday and we know the name of the
    object it is called Apsinthos

    September 8, 2010 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    Sounds like career/funding maneuvering and positioning to me.

    September 8, 2010 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. Texas2112

    @Crisy003 I doubt you were discussing this exact event last year in class since "The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, discovered both objects Sunday morning during a routine monitoring of the skies, NASA said."

    These are newly discovered asteroids. There have been other near misses in the news over the past several years. No need to panic though. There is a lot of ocean and atmosphere out there to deal with most of these objects. The big one, no need to worry about that either. Nothing we could do about it.

    September 8, 2010 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. BillShut

    Science Advisor to President: "Sir, the meteors are SLOWING DOWN!!!" 😉

    September 8, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mark

    Good job CNN for posting this story...FoxNews still has yet to post anything about this.

    I hope that we have more than 8hr notice when the big one comes!

    September 8, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. cocoman

    only three days notice! i gotta get my hair and nails done.

    September 8, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. hmm

    Unless there is something we can actually do about imminent meteor collisions with Earth, do I really want to know one is coming?

    September 8, 2010 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14