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MacNut
Mar 19, 2004, 12:03 AM
Tiny Asteroid Buzzes Earth
Space Rock Was So Close, It Was Visible With Binoculars
By JOHN ANTCZAK, AP


PASADENA, Calif. (March 18) - A 100-foot-diameter asteroid passed close but harmlessly by Earth on Thursday, astronomers said.

The hurtling rock passed about 26,500 miles above the southern Atlantic Ocean at 2:08 p.m. PST.
Image of asteroid's path inside lunar orbit shows Earth's gravitational effect on the object. (NASA/JPL)

It was the closest recorded encounter between Earth and an asteroid, said Steven Chesley, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who works on a program looking for such objects.

Such encounters, however, are actually believed to occur at the rate of one every two years and have simply not been detected, he said.

"There certainly have been closer encounters that we didn't know about,'' he added.
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Astronomers were continuing to observe the asteroid, 2004 FH, which was expected to be beyond the moon's orbit by early Friday.

It won't come fairly close to Earth again until 2044, when it will be within 930,000 miles.

Chesley said there was a lingering chance, on the order of one in a million, that it could hit sometime in the future, but that possibility is expected to be eliminated as its orbit is further refined.

The asteroid was close enough to Earth on Thursday to be visible through binoculars from vantage points in the southern hemisphere, Asia and Europe, Chesley said.

If it had hit Earth it likely would have broken up in the atmosphere. Its shock wave could have been strong enough to break windows on the ground, but nothing like the disastrous climate-changing effects that could result from the impact of an asteroid more than a half-mile in diameter, he said.

Astronomers had to scramble to observe 2004 FH because it was only discovered late Monday during a survey by two telescopes in New Mexico.

03/18/04 22:30 EST

MongoTheGeek
Mar 19, 2004, 08:03 AM
Just as a point of reference.

Geosynchronous orbit is only 24,000 miles.

jsw
Mar 19, 2004, 12:25 PM
Just as a point of reference.

Geosynchronous orbit is only 24,000 miles.

Actually, it's slightly less than 22,500 miles. So that asteroid was way far away from geosync sats. ;)

wdlove
Mar 19, 2004, 12:43 PM
That is a very interesting close encounter with Earth. Are there any pictures of the Asteroid?

MongoTheGeek
Mar 19, 2004, 01:26 PM
Actually, it's slightly less than 22,500 miles. So that asteroid was way far away from geosync sats. ;)

Doh!

All I could remember that the circumference of the earth ~ GEO.

Even if my numbers for geostationary orbit were right its still a bit away.

If its trajectory were a little bit different it would have been a second moon almost in geostationary orbit. It would have made a great space station.

Makosuke
Mar 19, 2004, 05:11 PM
Doh!
If its trajectory were a little bit different it would have been a second moon almost in geostationary orbit. It would have made a great space station.Of course, just because it passed through a geosynchronous orbit doesn't mean it would've become a moon, it just means it would've gone zipping by really quickly, since its orbit is probably highly eliptical, and not around Earth anyway. Something in solar orbit could get captured by Earth, but it's not easy (probably going really fast relative to Earth orbital velocities), and the moon is big enough that it'd probably get slingshotted out or crash into Earth before too long.

Wish I'd been somewhere where that was visible, though.

voicegy
Mar 20, 2004, 01:12 PM
That is a very interesting close encounter with Earth. Are there any pictures of the Asteroid?

As soon as I heard it was coming, I ran outside with my Fuji throwaway, fired up the built in flash ('cause it was dark) and grabbed one:

wdlove
Mar 20, 2004, 01:19 PM
As soon as I heard it was coming, I ran outside with my Fuji throwaway, fired up the built in flash ('cause it was dark) and grabbed one:

That is truly awesome voiceguy, thank you! ;) It is very interesting, it looks pitted like our own moon. In the lower left hand corner it has a profile of a human face.

MrMacMan
Mar 21, 2004, 12:14 AM
Damn Asteriods don't leave us alone!

Ahh! Why must they constantly zoom by our planet! ;)