In what apparently came as a relatively unexpected surprise to astronomers, amateur and government-affiliated alike, two large asteroids passed closer than the moon to Earth on Wednesday morning, September 8, 2010. According to the official NASA website, the hurling objects were first observed on Sunday morning, September 5, by the Catalina Sky Survey who then contacted the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The first, Near Earth Asteroid 2010 RX30, with an estimated size of 10 to 20 meters, they reported would (and did) pass about 6/10′s the distance to the moon, the second, 2010 RF12, estimated to be 6 to 14 meters in size, only 2/10′s that distance, passed a few hours later. The first asteroid travels at about 13,400 MPH, the second at about 22,370 MPH.
Neither of these space travelers was a risk to Earth, although they were visible to telescope-armed amateur space watchers. Astronomers agree that while a passing of a single asteroid is common, the passing of a pair such as this, only hours apart, is the first occurrence of that kind. A program executive of the Near Earth Object program at NASA’s Washington headquarters, scientist Lindley Johnson, remarked, “We don’t know everything that’s out there.”
In July experts from NASA gave details of a 600 yard asteroid that has one chance in a thousand of striking the Earth in 2182; if it does make contact the damage will be comparable to the atomic bombing at Hiroshima which brought about a sudden ending to World War ll.
The unknown asteroid which may or may not have ended the reign of the dinosaurs on Earth, and which thusly ended the Cretaceous period, was about six miles across.
We are aware that asteroid Apophis, “the Uncreator,” a “Serpent that Dwells in Eternal Darkness,” will come rather close to Earth, inside our communication satellites, in 2029, and again in 2036. Reports on the likelihood of impact by Apophis vary; that asteroid’s path is affected by a number of factors, including even the influence of other asteroids which may pass close to it. The NASA website linked in my article says that the scientists have a plan to alter the asteroid’s course by a coating of mesh which will alter the course by altering the surface temperature.
NASA it is reported is now studying a proposed manned expedition to an asteroid. Lockheed has outlined a mission which they name “Plymouth Rock,” which would take two astronauts on a five or six month journey in what they bill as a dress rehearsal for a mission to the planet Mars. The speculated date for the asteroid visit is about 2025.