Asteroid discovered by NASA to pass Earth safely

Jun 09, 2014 by Whitney Clavin
This diagram shows the orbit of asteroid 2014 HQ124, and its location relative to Earth on June 8. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) —A newfound asteroid will safely pass Earth on June 8 from a distance of about 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers), more than three times farther away than our moon.

Designated 2014 HQ124, the was discovered April 23, 2014, by NASA's NEOWISE mission, a space telescope adapted for scouting the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the infrared glow of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. The NEOWISE data estimate asteroid 2014 HQ124 to be between 800 and 1,300 feet (250 and 400 meters).

"There is zero chance of an impact," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "In fact, it's fairly common for asteroids to pass near Earth. You'd expect an object about the size of 2014 HQ124 to pass this close every few years."

More than one hundred follow-up observations from NASA-funded, ground-based telescopes and were used to pin down the orbit of the asteroid out to the year 2200, during which time it poses no risk to Earth. Its trajectory will continue to be recalculated past that time frame as additional observations are received.

Yeomans said that 2014 HQ124 is a good target for radar observations using NASA's Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, shortly after the closest approach on June 8. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than otherwise known.

2014 HQ124 is designated a "potentially hazardous asteroid," or PHA, which refers to those asteroids 460 feet (140 meters) in size or larger that pass within 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometers) of Earth's orbit around the sun. There are currently 1,484 known PHAs, but none pose a significant near-term risk of impacting Earth.

"Because NEOWISE is a observing the dawn and twilight sky at infrared wavelengths, it is particularly good at finding large NEOs that make relatively close passes to Earth," said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NEOWISE at JPL. "Using , we can estimate the object's size, and we can tell that it reflects a fair amount of light. That means it's most likely a stony object."

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and identifies their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. To date, U.S. assets have discovered more than 98 percent of the known near-Earth objects.

Along with the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, it also partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country that are working to find, track and understand these objects better, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA. In addition, NASA values the work of numerous highly skilled amateur astronomers, whose accurate observational data helps improve asteroid orbits after they are found.

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chrisn566
5 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2014
Lets catch it and mine that sucker!
chrisn566
not rated yet Jun 09, 2014
I remember watching this retired Lockheed scientist talking about the usual weird stuff,space travel,anti-gravity etc. But one thing that caught my attention,because of this article,is how he stated an Asteroid that they are supposedly already tracking would come close to earth,then orbit around and 30 some odd years after would hit the planet. Only i think he mentioned the first close orbit would be 2020's sometime,then hitting the earch around 2036 or something along those lines. Makes one think.
4johnny
not rated yet Jun 10, 2014
What gets me is the time between discovery and Earth encounter... in this case, 45 days. If a PHA were to come along on a collision course, you would have less than 7 weeks to make peace in your life.
ViperSRT3g
not rated yet Jun 10, 2014
I wonder how much damage this PHA would have caused had it collided with Earth?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jun 10, 2014
I wonder how much damage this PHA would have caused had it collided with Earth?


Here ya go:
http://en.wikiped...14_HQ124

Depending on where it hits this might be pretty nasty (A hit in a not too remote part of the ocean might actually be more nasty than one on land due to tsunamis).
For comparison: 2 gigatonnes of TNT is about 200 times the largest hydrogen bomb ever detonated by humans.

Lets catch it and mine that sucker!

If you have a bright idea how to slow down that type of kinetic energy in a relatively short time - let's hear it. Note that 250 to 400 meters isn't all that huge, so the amount of refined material you'd get out would not be worth much (other than of in terms of scientific value)