Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Lost asteroid to fly between moon and Earth tonight

Lost asteroid to fly between moon and Earth tonight

An asteroid whose dimensions range from 197 to 427 feet (approximately 60 to 130 meters) in diameter, 2010 WC9 asteroid, will pass safely between the Earth and the Moon on Tuesday, May 15th. "This will be one of the closest approaches by a "large" (~100m) asteroid ever observed", the Northolt Branch Observatories revealed.

The asteroid, known as 2010 WC9, was first spotted in November 2010 and was monitored until December of that year, when it became faint to see. But it was not imaged again until May 8th, 2018, when it was temporarily called ZJ99C60, and then again on May 10 when experts were able to identify it as 2010 WC9. Orbit calculations show that the May 15 pass is Earth's closest encounter for an asteroid this size in nearly 300 years.

It will pass across our skies tonight, now travelling at 28,655 miles per hour! Since there wasn't enough observational data to calculate its full orbit and predict its return, astronomers moved on to other space objects and the matter of 2010 WC9 was closed. That space rock was only 65 feet wide; it shattered thousands of windows and injured about 1,500 people.

"There is an extremely low probability of the planet coming into contact with one of these large near-Earth objects in our lifetime, but there is really good evidence that it happened in the past and led to mass extinction on the planet", said Janzen.

It may be a long shot to endlessly aim at the sky, trying to locate the passing asteroid.

An asteroid the size of New York City's Statue of Liberty is expected to buzz by Earth Tuesday, and this time, scientists are ready and waiting. But, persons wishing to see the asteroid can tune in to Slooh, the astronomy broadcasting service beginning at 4 pm Alaska time.

"The asteroid will be moving quite rapidly (30 arc seconds per minute)". However, many amateur astronomers are going to get their telescopes out and should spot the asteroid at the right time. "Our display will update every five seconds", Guy Wells, the founding member of the observatory, told EarthSky.

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