Asteroid to Fly by Within Moon's Orbit Thursday

Apr 07, 2010
Orbit of asteroid 2010 GA6. Image credit: NASA/JPL

( -- A newly discovered asteroid, 2010 GA6, will safely fly by Earth this Thursday at 4:06 p.m. Pacific (23:06 U.T.C.).

At time of closest approach 2010 GA6 will be about 359,000 kilometers (223,000 miles) away from Earth - about 9/10ths the distance to the moon. The asteroid, approximately 22 meters (71 feet) wide, was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey, Tucson, Az.

"Fly bys of near-Earth objects within the moon's occur every few weeks," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Explore further: Don't blink or you might miss the leap second on Tuesday

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User comments : 16

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not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
When did we first find out about this asteroid? Please don't tell me it was last week!
And if it were on a collision course with Earth, what could we have done about at this early stage of the game?
not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
What could we have done? Don't you remember how to duck and cover under a desk? It works for nukes!

But seriously, I don't imagine a 71 foot asteroid would be very damaging once it entered the atmosphere. I believe much of the mass would be destroyed upon reentry. I am not very versed in this field though, so anyone is free to teach me a lesson.
A quick search on Google seems to indicate 100 meters for the threshold.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2010
Nah 22 meters isn't even close to dangerous. Of course it could do some damage if it lands in a populated area (or on your head), whatever doesn't burn up in the atmosphere anyway, but it's nothing remotely close to a catastrophic event.
2 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2010
Globally, it wouldn't be catastrophic if it hit. Locally, though it could be devastating. The mile-wide crater at Meteor Crater, Az, USA, is thought to have been made by a meteor about the size of a railroad car which I would guess is roughly 70ft??
Basically, it would be like a nuke going off.

And as for when it was found, the name 2010GA6 indicates that it was found in 2010, and yes, probably last week. Unfortunately, there would be little we could do if it was found to be on an impact course with Earth. And as the article states, this happens fairly's only a matter of time.
4 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2010
A 20 meter diameter asteroid impact the earth roughly every century. Judging from similar impacts documented on the web you'd get a crater about 200 meters deep and a little over a kilometer wide. This also depends on what the asteroid is made of (e.g. whether its predominantly iron or just some fluffy stone which might well disintegrate in the atmosphere)

Of course the probability of the asteroid (or meteor in that case) coming down on land is less than it coming down over the sea.

So it would make a dent - but hardly be 'catastrophic' (unless it happened to hit a major city - which is pretty unlikely)
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
This probably won't be visible to the naked eye will it..?
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
Anyone know what part of the Earth it will be passing over?
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
Depends also on the speed at which it would hit. Which depends on whether it was roughly co-orbiting with the Earth (i.e. the relative velocity was small) or whether it was coming at an oblique angle (i.e. highly elliptical orbit.) In that respect, the most dangerous impactors are actually comets, not asteroids.
not rated yet Apr 09, 2010
In terms of an asteroid with size x making crater of size y, I think size x is after it is burned up and just before impact. Correct me if I am wrong, I think they are not considering how large it was before entry.
not rated yet Apr 10, 2010
well, i won't be hiding under a desk, but if they could plot with reasonable accuracy on which side of the earth an object would likely hit, i would consider hitching a plane ride/early holiday and watch on CNN things unfold, from a tropical island some 10.000 miles from projected ground zero, zipping from my protein shake...
not rated yet Apr 10, 2010
i mean, my boss will not be able to fire me for unauthorized absence when the office is completely pulverized is he?
not rated yet Apr 10, 2010
@Husky, unless the asteroid is projected to hit in or near the oceans. In which case, you'd be well advised to stay away from islands, and seek refuge somewhere in the middle of a large continental plate (or high up in the mountains.)
not rated yet Apr 10, 2010
on second thought, make that a mountain range, otherwise the tsunami will catch up with me...
not rated yet Apr 11, 2010
A 20 meter diameter asteroid impact the earth roughly every century. Judging from similar impacts documented on the web you'd get a crater about 200 meters deep and a little over a kilometer wide.

the thing is, that meteorite would have been a lot larger than 70ft when it was in space. majority of it would have burnt up upon entry. so you cannot compare this asteroid to the meteor you have mentioned.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 11, 2010
The ablation of an object as it penetrates Earth's atmosphere is almost entirely dependent on the ANGLE it comes in at. If it comes in at a 90 degree angle, it will only have to pass through 20-30km of dense atmosphere. Since these objects often travel at 5-15 km/s, that means that it would hit the ground after only 2-6 seconds.

If it comes in at a more oblique angle, it may have to pass through 100km+ of atmosphere, meaning it may spend 20+ seconds burning up.

So it's really a crapshoot, there's no solid limit on the size of the object. It's all very dependent on angle of entry.

Additionally, it doesn't have to actually hit the ground to inflict damage. The well documented explosion over siberia was caused by an asteroid detonating in midair, and it leveled hundreds of miles of forest.

not rated yet Apr 11, 2010
Anyone know what part of the Earth it will be passing over?

Probably just the Vogons dropping off some message about a hyper-galactic expressway. Ignore them.

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