Don Yeomans, Paul Chodas and Steve Chesley
NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office
May 27, 2010
Trajectory of Asteroid 2010 KQ - March-Oct 2010 |
A small asteroid-like object has been discovered in an orbit about the Sun that is so similar to the Earth's orbit that scientists strongly suspect it to be a rocket stage that escaped years ago fromthe Earth-Moon system. The object was discovered on May 16, 2010 by Richard Kowalski at the Catalina Sky Survey, and has subsequently been observed by many observers, including Bill Ryan (Magdalena Ridge Observatory) and Peter Birtwhistle (England). It was given the asteroid designation 2010 KQ by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge Massachusetts, who identified its orbit as being very similar tothat of the Earth. Orbit refinements by JPL's Paul Chodas and amateur astronomer Bill Gray have shown that this object was very close to the Earth in early 1975, but the trajectory is not known with enough accuracy to associate the object with any particular launch. Nevertheless, scientists do not expect that a natural object could remain in this type of orbit for very long because of itsrelatively high impact probability with the Earth. In fact, an analysis carried out by Paul Chodas suggests that 2010 KQ has a 6% chance of impacting the Earth over a 30-year period starting in 2036.
Near-infrared spectral measurements of this object carried out by S.J. Bus (University of Hawaii) using the NASA IRTF telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, indicate that its spectral characteristics do not matchthose of any of the known asteroid types, and in fact are similar to those of a rocket body. The object's absolute magnitude (28.9) also suggests that it is only a few meters in size, about the size of a upper stage. Additional observations over the coming months should allow scientists to discern how strongly solar radiation pressure affects the object's motion, a result that could helpdistinguish a solid, rocky asteroid from a lighter man-made object.
Even in the unlikely event that this object is headed for impact with the Earth, whether it is an asteroid or rocket body, it is so small that it would disintegrate in the atmosphere and not cause harm on the ground.
2- Asteroid to Fly by Within Moon's Orbit Thursday
Updated April 08, 2010
With additional observations comingin, scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. have been able to further refine the trajectory estimate for the orbit of asteroid 2010 GA6. This latest trajectory indicates that the closest approach for asteroid 2010 GA6 will be just slightly beyond the moon's orbit, about 434,000 kilometers (270,000 miles) from Earth. The time of closestapproach will be 7:06 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on April 8 (2:06 U.T.C. on April 9).
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 orbit occur every few weeks," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object ObservationsProgram, 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.
JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.,...