Sunday, 6 April 2014

Asteroid 2014 GA passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 GA passed by the Earth at a distance of approximately 3 916 000 km (over ten times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon), slightly after 5.00 pm GMT on Wednesday 2 April 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, and should it have done so it would have presented little threat; 2014 GA is calculated to be between 9m and 31 m in diameter, and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of between 35 km and 16 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

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

2014 GA was discovered on 1 April 2014 (the day 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 GA implies that the asteroid was the 1st  object (object A) discovered in the first half  of April 2014 (period 2014 G).

2014 GA has a 381 day orbital period and a slightly eccentric orbit tilted to the plane of the Solar System 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 1.09 AU from the Sun (i.e. 1.09% 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 similarity between the orbital period of 2014 GA and that of the Earth, and the fact that while it's orbit is slightly eccentric it never gets more than 10% closer or further from the Sun than we are, means that close encounters with the Earth are thought to be quite common, the most recent having happened in March 2013, and the next being predicted for October this year.

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