Sunday 17 November 2013

Asteroid 2013 VQ13 discovered after it passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2013 VQ13 passed the Earth at a distance of 12 250 000 km (a little under 32 times as distant as the Moon), slightly before 2.20 pm on Saturday 9 November 2013. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, and if it had done so it would have presented only a minor risk. 2013 VQ13 is calculated to be between 25 and 78 m in diameter, and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the atmosphere between 20 and 2 km above the Earth's surface, with only fragmentary material reaching the ground - though in the case of an object towards the upper end this range it would be expected to cause considerable localized damage.

The calculated orbit of 2013 VQ13. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2013 VQ13 was discovered on 11 November 2013 (two days after its closest approach to the Earth) by the the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2013 VQ13 implies that the asteroid was the 341st object discovered in the first half  of November 2013 (period 2013 V).

While 2013 VQ13 occasionally comes near to the Earth, it does not actually cross our orbital path. It has an elliptical 623 day orbit that takes it from 1.07 AU from the Sun (1.07 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun), slightly outside our orbit, to 1.78 AU from the Sun, outside the orbit of Mars (though its orbit is tilted at a high angle to the Solar System, so the the only planet it ever nears is the Earth), so unless an encounter with another body causes it's orbital path to alter in a very specific way (highly unlikely) there is no chance of it hitting the Earth. As a Near Earth Object that remains strictly outside the orbit of the Earth it is classed as an Amor Family Asteroid.

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.