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Small asteroid will fly by Earth tonight

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posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 04:58 PM

Small asteroid will fly by Earth tonight
When it makes pass, space rock will be just inside moon’s orbit
updated 2:56 p.m. ET, Fri., Oct . 16, 2009

A small asteroid will buzz the Earth late Friday EDT, flying just inside the orbit of the moon. It should pass safely by our home planet, according to a crack team of NASA space rock trackers.

The space rock, named 2009 TM8, was just discovered Thursday by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. It will get within 216,000 miles of Earth when it zooms by at a speed of about 18,163 mph.

"That's slightly closer than the orbit of our moon," NASA's Asteroid Watch team said Friday via Twitter.

The time of closest approach will be 11:44 p.m. EDT tonight.

The asteroid hunters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., stands on constant watch for rogue space rocks that could pose an impact risk to Earth. It was the same team which, last week, scaled back the risk of another asteroid — a large space rock called Apophis — hitting the Earth in 2036.

Compared to Apophis, which is as large as two football fields, 2009 TM8 is tiny. It is about 30 feet across and was discovered Thursday by skywatchers, JPL officials told

Such close passes are not unheard of. With smaller objects, which are hard to find, announcements like this often come at the last minute. Researchers say there is a risk, however, of Earth eventually being hit by an undetected small asteroid that could cause heavy localized or even regional damage.

7 million objects near Earth
So what would happen if an object like this did strike?

"If it's typical density, it would create a 4 kiloton explosion in the Earth's atmosphere if it were to hit, which of course it won't," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "You'd expect an object of this size to fly within the orbit of the moon every few days or so."

Most simply aren't spotted.

"There're about 7 million of these objects in the near-Earth space; needless to say we have discovered only a small fraction of them." Yeomans said.

An asteroid this size can hit the Earth once every seven years or so, he said.

Professional and amateur skywatchers are expected to keep a close eye on 2009 TM8 over the next few days to refine its path through space. Additional observations will help astronomers pin down the rock's entire track around the sun. "We'll have this orbit nailed within a couple days or so," Yeomans said.

While NASA tends to focus on larger asteroid threats and has found most of the big asteroid that could eventually threaten our planet, monitoring the smaller space rocks is also vital, Yeomans said. "They're sort of Mother Nature's way of shooting a few across the bow to make sure we pay attention."

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:05 PM
Thanks for the post!

I live in a pristine area for celestial viewing (sleepy gulf coast) so I usually start gaze for at least a few minutes every night.

Just wish I would have invested in some optics before the economy took a dump.

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:16 PM
Here's more information:
Earth Impact Risk Summary
Orbit Diagram

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:19 PM
Is there any online telescope covering this fly by tonight?

I like watching these amazing and "harmless" events from the safety of my house.

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:24 PM
well i'll definitely be outside at around 11:35pm tonight... thanks for letting us know!

i hope i get to see it!

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:35 PM
Good to know, thanks!

Weirdest thing happened this morning... I went outside about dawn, it wasn't dark, not full daylight yet, but the sky was light. I glanced up and saw a streak, just like a shooting star. But it lasted for a count of around 5-7 seconds. It glowed. I waited for more, but that was all that came. I see shooting stars all the time, but I've never seen one this bright that lasted, glowed, and was visible in the light.

I'll be out there tonight to see the asteroid.

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:45 PM

Originally posted by worldwatcher
Is there any online telescope covering this fly by tonight?

I like watching these amazing and "harmless" events from the safety of my house.

I don't know. This one is only 30 feet across and just inside the moon's orbit, so I guess they were doing good to even catch it. If I find something, I'll post it.

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:54 PM
Yeah I would definetly like to know if there was an online telescope also, ide like to see this. I dont have any telescopes of my own. Thanks for sharing.

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 05:56 PM
According to the comments on
you would need a good telescope to see it.

posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 06:59 PM
Does anyone have a clue as to where one would look with their telescope to see the object? I live in the Northeastern United States. I know it's at or around 11:45pm between the moon and Earth but where should I look? At the moon? or in a different section of the sky? How long may it be and how bright?


posted on Oct, 16 2009 @ 08:49 PM
Unless you have a monster telescope, at least about 12", don't even bother trying to spot it visually. We're talking magnitude 17 here, so this is definitely in the realm of CCD detection only for most amateur telescopes. I have to fly to Chicago for a business trip tomorrow so I probably won't be able to stay up late enough to catch it.

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