June 27, 2011
Asteroid Fly-By On Monday Will Be Very Close
Hard hats will not be necessary but you may want to keep an eye on the sky. An asteroid approximately 10 to 50 yards wide will be buzzing past the Earth on Monday, The Telegraph is reporting.
The tumbling space rock will be bright enough to see with a small telescope and will buzz past our planet to within 11,000 miles, well within the orbit of the moon.
The asteroid, named 2011 MD, was only spotted on Wednesday by a robotic telescope in New Mexico that is exclusively used to scan the skies for such hazards. The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts issued an alert.
Peter Birtwhistle, who has discovered dozens of asteroids from his own UK observatory, confirmed the asteroid with a photo taken from Great Shefford in Berkshire.
Its closest approach will be along the southern hemisphere, so observers in South America will be able to watch it brighten and fade rapidly as it speeds through the night sky.
UK asteroid expert Dr. Emily Baldwin said, "We are certain that it will miss us, but if it did enter the atmosphere, an asteroid this size would mostly burn up in a brilliant fireball, possibly scattering a few meteorites."
On November 8, a 400-meter wide asteroid weighing 50 million tons, called 2005 YU55, is expected to fly inside the orbit of the moon. Passing by at a distance of just 201,000 miles, the asteroid is the largest object to approach the earth so close that we have known about in advance.
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