Sunday, March 21, 2010
This list of upcoming near-Earth encounters with asteroids is always interesting to keep an eye on, as there are often some fairly close encounters (just a few times more distant than the Moon) that don't make the news. The next few months doesn't seem to be all that interesting, however:
-the closest encounter is still 5.4 times the distance from Earth to the Moon and the asteroid making the flyby is only a few dozen metres in diameter
-the brightest only clocks in at a pitiful magnitude of 17.3. This is also the largest asteroid to fly by us in the next while, with a diameter of up to 2.1 km.
Nevertheless, taking a look at the names of the asteroids one can see how many have been discovered in recent months since these all have the designation 2010 as that was the year they were discovered. Right now the list features 80 asteroids, and of these 80 a full 12 were discovered this year. Even more interesting, all 12 of these are flying by us within the next two months, so these are obviously very recent discoveries that only became visible to us due to their recent proximity. In fact, just last March we had a number of close encounters (one here, another here) with asteroids that were only seen a few days before they flew by. We're still quite blind to a lot of these objects that are sneaking up on us even now.
By the way, this object looks like it would have made an interesting candidate for capture and mining if we had had the capability to capture asteroids by now, as it has a very low relative velocity (just 0.72 km/s) and a size of 5.7 - 13 metres, small enough to burn up in the atmosphere if any mining operation were to go wrong. My stick man drawing from last year shows a human on a 15-metre asteroid:
so a person working on an asteroid of this size (assuming 9.4 metres in diameter) would look like this.