Wednesday, 17 July, 2019

Giant asteroid and its moon to come close to Earth this weekend

A rendering of 1999 KW4 asteroid with its moon A rendering of 1999 KW4 asteroid with its moon
Sandra Phillips | 27 May, 2019, 14:56

An asteroid which measures approximately a mile wide and is orbited by its own moon is expected to pass by the Earth on Saturday, May 25, at speeds of 48,000 miles per hour. LINEAR is a collaboration of NASA, the US Air Force, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and was formed to track objects that come near Earth and are potentially hazardous space travellers that could intersect Earth's path. Thankfully, this appears to be a safe pass, as the asteroid and its moon will be more than three million miles away from us at closest approach Saturday evening.

A very big asteroid with its own little moon is going to zip past Earth tonight (May 25) - close enough that, with some preparation and a decent telescope, amateur astronomers may spot it blotting out the stars.

Even so, astronomers will be watching the flyby using a combination of Earth- and space-based telescopes - part of an ongoing effort to improve our planetary defenses against catastrophic asteroid strikes of the sort seen in a disturbing simulation conducted recently in Washington. This asteroid has its own moon.

The rock is an Aten-type space rock, meaning that its orbit brings it between the orbits of Venus and Earth and will actually cross Earth's orbit. Because it carries a large moon along with it, the asteroid is technically designated as a binary system.

The main asteroid is about a mile wide, and looks a bit like a spinning top thanks to a ridge that wraps around the rock's equator.

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"1999 KW4 approaches within 0.05 AU of Earth several times each century", NASA's report on the object said.

The asteroid, experts say will be visible from Saturday night (May 26) until Sunday (May 27).

Usually, space rocks will find its way around the Sun and pass across the Earth.

The two asteroids will pass closest to Earth at 7:05 pm EDT (1105 GMT), when they'll be just 3,219,955 miles (5,182,015 km) from the planet's surface.

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