Tuesday 14 January 2014

Asteroid 2014 AK51 comes closer to the Earth than the Moon is, two days before being discovered.

Asteroid 2014 AK51 passed the Earth at a distance of 369 500 km (96% of the average distance between the Earth and the Moon), slightly before 9.10 am GMT on Wednesday 8 January 2014. there was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, and had it done so it would have presented little threat. 2014 AK51 is estimated to be between 9 and 28 m in diameter, and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the atmosphere between 32 and 17 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

The calculated orbit of 2014 AK51. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 AK51 was discovered on 10 January 2014 (two days after its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2014 AF16 implies that it was the 1285th asteroid discovered in the first half of January 2014 (period 2014 A).

2014 AK51 has an 4.85 orbital period and an eccentric orbit that takes it from 0.97 AU from the Sun (i.e. 97% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 4.76 AU from the Sun (i.e. 476% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, somewhat more than three times the distance at which Mars orbits the Sun, though still inside the orbit of Jupiter). It is therefore classed as an Apollo Group Asteroid (an asteroid that is on average further from the Sun than the Earth, but which does get closer).

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