Friday 17 January 2014

Asteroid 2014 AW32 passes between the Earth and the Moon on the day it is discovered.

Asteroid 2014 AW32 passed the Earth at a distance of 186 500 km (slightly under half the distance between the Earth and the Moon) at about 9.40 pm GMT on 10 January 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, and were it to have done so it would have presented no threat. 2014 AW32 is calculated to be between 5 and 19 m in diameter, and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the Earth's atmosphere between 40 and 23 km above the planet's surface, with only fragmentary material reaching the ground.

The calculated orbit of 2014 AW32. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 AW32 was discovered on 10 January 2014 (the day of its closest pass of 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 822nd asteroid discovered in the first half of January 2014 (period 2014 A).

2014 AW32 has an 386 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted to the plane of the Solar System that takes it from 0.78 AU from the Sun (i.e. 78% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 1.30 AU from the Sun (i.e. 130% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun). 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). The closeness of this orbital period to our own means that it is thought to make frequent close passes of the Earth, the most recent having been on 27 December 2012 and the next predicted for 15 December this year.

See also Asteroid 2014 AD16 passes by the EarthAsteroid 2014 AK51 comes closer to the Earth than the Moon is, two days before being discoveredAsteroid 2014 AM51 passes the Earth four days before being discoveredAsteroid 2014 AY32 passes the Earth before being discovered and Asteroid 2013 UB1 passes the Earth.

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