Saturday, 5 October 2013

Asteroid (350751) 2002 AW to pass the Earth on Monday 7 October 2013.

Asteroid (350751) 2002 AW will pass the Earth at a distance of approximately 9 244 000 km (roughly 24 times the distance at which the Moon orbits the Earth) at about 1.40 pm GMT on Monday 7 October 2013. This is not a particularly close approach, and there is no danger of the asteroid hitting us, however as an object with an orbit which crosses that of the Earth with an estimated diameter of between 140 and 430 m, it does, unlike most near Earth objects, present a significant threat, should it collide with us at some point in the future. It is thought that such an object would reach the surface of the planet, resulting in an impact that would leave a crater between 2 and 5 km wide. Such an event would cause devastation over a fairly wide area, and would almost certainly affect the planets climate for decades, though it would not be likely to cause a global extinction event.

The orbit of (350751) 2002 AW. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

(350751) 2002 AW was discovered on 5 January 2002 by the Spacewatch Project at  University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory operating out of the Kitt Peak Observatory. The name (350751) 2002 AW implies that it is the 350751st named minor body discovered in the Solar System and the 22nd object discovered in the first two weeks of January 2002 (Period 2002 A). 

(350751) 2002 AW has a 404 day orbital period that reaches 1.35 AU from the Sun at its aphelion (i.e. it is 1.35 times as far from the Sun as the Earth at the furthest point in its orbit) and 0.796 AU from the Sun at its perihelion (i.e. is is 0.796 times as far from the Sun as the Earth at its closest. This means the the asteroid only crosses the orbit of the Earth, not any other planet. As its average distance from the Sun is greater than the Earth's but it crosses our orbit it is classed as an Apollo Group Asteroid. Because of this closeness to the Earth's orbit, close encounters with (350751) 2002 AW are fairly common, it last made a close pass in December 2012, and is predicted to do so again in January 2018. There is, however, no danger of an impact in the near future.


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