Science and Health

Small asteroid to pass Earth: NASA

Updated: 2011-06-25 08:51
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LOS ANGELES - Near-Earth asteroid 2011 MD will whip past Earth on June 27, but will not pose any threat, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said on Friday.

The asteroid will pass only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) above the Earth's surface at about 9:30 EDT, according to JPL in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

This small asteroid, only 5-20 meters in diameter, is in a very Earth-like orbit about the Sun, but an orbital analysis indicates there is no chance it will actually strike Earth on Monday, JPL said.

If a rocky asteroid the size of 2011 MD were to enter Earth's atmosphere, it would be expected to burn up high in the atmosphere and cause no damage to Earth's surface, said JPL.

The accompanying diagram gives a view of the asteroid's trajectory from the general direction of the Sun. This view indicates that 2011 MD will reach its closest Earth approach point in extreme southern latitudes (in fact over the southern Atlantic Ocean), according to JPL.

The incoming trajectory leg passes several thousand kilometers outside the geosynchronous ring of satellites and the outgoing leg passes well inside the ring, JPL said.

For a brief time, it may be bright enough to be seen even with a modest-sized telescope.

One would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every six years on average.

The asteroid was discovered by the LINEAR near-Earth object discovery team observing from Socorro, New Mexico.