Friday 9 December 2016

Asteroid 2007 VM184 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2007 VM184 passed the Earth at a distance of 11 080 000 km (about 28.8 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon or 7.40% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 3.30 pm GMT on Saturday 3 December 2016. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though if were to do so it would present a significant threat. 2007 VM184 is estimated to be between 120 and 390 m in diameter, and an asteroid of this size would be expected to pass directly through the atmosphere, striking the Earth's surface and creating a crater between 1.5 and 6 km in diameter, as well as causing devastation over a wide area and global climatic effects that could last for decades or even centuries.

The calculated orbit of 2007 VM184. Minor Planet Center.

2007 VM184 was discovered on 12 November 2007 by the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey, which is located in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2007 VM implies that it was the 4612th asteroid (asteroid M184) discovered in the first half of November 2007 (period 2007 V).

2007 VM184 is calculated to have a 469 day orbital period and an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 23.3° to the plain of the Solar System that takes it from 0.56 AU from the Sun (i.e. 56% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, between the orbits of Mercury and Venus) to 1.80 AU from the Sun (i.e. 180% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, more than the distance at which the planet Mars 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). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are extremely common, with the last having occurred in April 2013 and the next predicted in July 2018. 2007 VM184  also has frequent close encounters with the planet Venus, with the last calculated to have happened in November 2006 next predicted for January 2021. As an asteroid possibly larger than 150 m in diameter that occasionally comes within 0.05 AU of the Earth, 2007 VM184 is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. 

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