Small asteroid will pass earth safely on Thursday

Mar 07, 2014
This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2014 EC past Earth on March 6, 2014. The asteroid's closest approach is a distance equivalent to about one-sixth of the distance between Earth and the moon. The indicated times are in Universal Time. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) —An asteroid about 25 feet (8 meters) across will safely pass Earth at about 1:21 p.m. PST (4:21 p.m. EST) today, March 6, approaching us six times closer than the moon.

This distance, though not unusual, is closer than the Earth flyby of a larger asteroid on Wednesday afternoon, March 5.

This afternoon's flyby object, asteroid 2014 EC, was discovered on March 5 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz. Its closest-approach distance, about 38,300 miles (61,600 kilometers), is between four and five Earth-diameters away from our home planet. It will not be visible to the unaided eye.

"This is not an unusual event," said Paul Chodas, a senior scientist in the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Objects of this size pass this close to the Earth several times every year."

A larger asteroid's flyby on Wednesday afternoon came within about nine-tenths of the distance to the moon. That asteroid, named 2014 DX110, is about 100 feet (30 meters) across. A third asteroid, 2014 EF, which is closer in size to today's 2014 EC, passed Earth at about 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST) Wednesday, with closest approach about twice as far from Earth as 2014 EC's .

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, for which the asteroid-watching portion is commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and identifies their close approaches to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

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GSwift7
not rated yet Mar 07, 2014
The image makes it seem like the asteroid is crossing the orbital planes of both the Earth and Moon. That makes it look like the asteroid just barely went behind the Earth. That alignment is very unlikely though, so it may have actually passed above or below the plane of Earth's orbit, though the illustration doesn't show that. I'm sure the original sighting report includes that information, even though the press release doesn't mention it.