Thursday, 3 April 2014

Asteroid 2014 FL38 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 FL38 passed the Earth at a distance of about 12 320 000 km (slightly over 32 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon), a little after 9.05 am GMT on Wednesday 2 April 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented a moderate threat. 2014 FL38 has an estimated diameter of between 34 and 110, and an asteroid towards the upper end of this range would be predicted to be able to punch directly through the Earth's atmosphere, impacting the planet's surface and resulting in an explosion around 3000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. Such an event would create a crater around 1.5 km in diameter, and cause devastation over a wide area, as well as climatic effects that would probably last for several years.

The calculated orbit of 2014 FL38. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 FL38 was discovered on 28 March 2014 (five days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2014 FL38 implies that the asteroid was the 961st  object (object L38) discovered in the second half  of March 2014 (period 2014 F).

While 2014 FL38 occasionally comes near to the Earth, it does not actually cross our orbital path. It has an elliptical 669 day orbit that takes it from 1.02 AU from the Sun (1.02 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun), slightly outside our orbit, to 1.96 AU from the Sun, (1.96 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the sun and outside the orbit of the planet Mars). As a Near Earth Object that remains strictly outside the orbit of the Earth it is classed as an Amor Family Asteroid. 

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