Saturday 11 February 2017

Asteroid 2017 BQ6 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2017 BQ6 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 2 52400 km (6.56 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 1.69% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 6.35 am GMT on Tuesday 7 February 2017. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would have presented a considerable threat. 2017 BQ6 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 94-300 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 110-330 m in diameter), and an object towards the upper end of this range would be predicted to be capable of passing through the Earth's atmosphere relatively intact, impacting the ground directly with an explosion that would be 65 000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. Such an impact would result in an impact crater over 4 km in diameter and devastation on a global scale, as well as climatic effects that would last decades or even centuries.
Animation of the movement of 2017 BQ6 made using images gathered by the Goldstone Solar System Radar. NASA/Caltech/JPL.

2017 BQ6 was discovered on 26 January 2017 (13 days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Space Surveillance Telescope. The designation 2017 BR5 implies that it was the 166th asteroid (asteroid Q6) discovered in the second half of January 2017 (period 2017 B).

 Image of 2017 BQ6 taken on 3 February 2017 using the iTelescope T05 MPC H06 remotely operated telescope at  Mayhill Observatory in New Mexico. Image is a composite made of several different exposures; stars appear as a series of spots as they move across the field, the asteroid is a single spot (indicated by the arrow) as the telescope is being trained on this object. iTelescope/Marian Urbanic/Fotografický občasník.

2017 BQ6 has a 994 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 9.01° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 0.91 AU from the Sun (i.e. 91% of he average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 2.98 AU from the Sun (i.e. 2.98% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, almost twice the distance between the Sun and the planet Mars). 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 calculated orbit of 2017 BQ6. Minor Planet Center.

As an asteroid possibly larger than 150 m in diameter that occasionally comes within 0.05 AU of the Earth, 2017 BQ6 is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.

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