Sun, Sep 07, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Asteroid to zoom near Earth today

Reuters, CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida

A recently discovered asteroid about the size of a house will make a relatively close pass by Earth today, flying just past the communication satellites that circle the planet, scientists said.

NASA said the asteroid, known as 2014 RC, poses no threat and at its closest approach it will be about one-tenth the distance to the moon, or about 40,000km, from Earth.

Communications and weather satellites generally orbit about 36,000km above the planet.

“While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids,” NASA said in a statement released on Tuesday last week.

With a diameter of about 18m, Asteroid 2014 RC is expected to be too dim to see with the naked eye, but amateur astronomers with small telescopes might be able to catch a glimpse as it zips by, NASA said.

Asteroid 2014 RC is a bit smaller than the 20m asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, last year. Debris from the shock wave injured more than 1,000 people.

The same day as the Chelyabinsk asteroid explosion, another, larger asteroid flew as close as 27,630km from Earth.

Earth’s latest celestial visitor was spotted on Aug. 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, and confirmed on the following night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.

The asteroid’s closest approach is to be over New Zealand at 6:18am tomorrow, NASA said.

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