November 11, 2009

Small Asteroid Spotted Flying Close To Earth

A previously undiscovered asteroid passed close to the Earth on Monday after being spotted just 15 hours before the close encounter.

The Catalina Sky Survey discovered the asteroid about 15 hours before it came within 8,700 miles from Earth, making it the third-closest known non-impacting asteroid in documented history.

Scientists said on average, asteroids the size of 2009 VA come this close to Earth about twice a year, while they impact about once every five years.

Soon after 2009 VA was spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey, it was identified by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass.

However, scientists said that if the asteroid had been predicted to be on a collision course with Earth, it would have likely burned out while entering the atmosphere.

The asteroid was estimated to be only 23 feet wide.

NASA's Near Earth Object Program determined that the asteroid's orbit would place it somewhere very close to Earth during its flyby, although it did not predict a collision.

The NEO program hopes to up its efforts to be able to detect 90 percent of the estimated 1,000 asteroids that come close to Earth by 2020.

Just over a year ago, experts spotted a smaller object, known as 2008 TC3, flying close to Earth with only about 11 hours notice.


Image 2: Trajectory of Asteroid 2009 VA Past Earth on November 6, 2009 (NASA NEO)


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