On Wednesday, September 8, 2010 two small asteroids passed near to Earth in two separate incidents. Over the last several days NASA officials have been watching these asteroids closely.
Asteroids 2010 RX30 and 2010 RF12 are not visible to the naked eye, however with powerful telescopes NASA astronomers were able to see these celestial objects coming a few days ago, on Sunday, September 5 while doing a routine examination of the skies at Catalina Sky Survey, near Tuscon, Arizona.
The first asteroid, 2010 RX30, passed at 5:51 a.m. EST. which appeared closest to Earth over the North Pacific. This asteroid was estimated to be an approximate 32 to 65 feet in size and came within about 154,000 miles of Earth. This distance is roughly equivalent to half way between the Earth and the Moon. As the asteroids approached closer, amateur viewers should have been able to view the objects with a moderate in strength telescope.
2010 RF12 was the second asteroid which came closest to Antarctica. This asteroid was approximated to be 20 to 46 feet in size and coming within about 50,000 miles to earth at 5:12 p.m. EST.
Normally rocks floating in space at these sizes are not even picked up by instruments as they seek out objects more than 100 feet, however these two smaller asteroids just happened to be “seen at the right time” (National Geographic).
According to experts, asteroids passing near Earth is not an unusual event, however 2010 RX30 and 2010 RF12 are considered remarkable because they are passing the Earth on the same day and the fact NASA was able to pinpoint them far in advance (CNN.com). The two asteroids are not traveling in the same orbits.
These events were not expected to be dangerous conditions as the asteroids typically are said to disintegrate before they would collide with Earth’s atmosphere, but the possibility does pose food for thought in terms of the potential hazards the Earth could be in daily.
Technology has come a long way and has offered many opportunities to discover some of the many deep mysteries of space, but is not advanced enough to be able to detect objects which come into the Earth’s orbital area well ahead of time; the three days is considered a lot of time. AOL reports “Scientists warn that this innocuous rock is a wake-up call. There are plenty of boulders in the solar system that are only slightly bigger, making them large enough to kill thousands of people but hard to spot until it’s almost too late.”
Lindley Johnson, head of NASA’s near-Earth objects program, states “We probably cover less than 10 percent of the sky that you [would] need to have assurance that you would pick something up several days in advance” AOL interprets, “A warning of even a few days would be enough to allow for an evacuation.”
As time moves on and technology becomes more progressive, it is hopeful that astronomers with their powerful instruments and tools will be able to learn a lot more about the many asteroids floating nearby daily, both large and small.