Saturday 8 June 2013

Asteroid 2013 LR6 passes between the Earth and the Moon.

Asteroid 2013 LR6, which was first spotted by The University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey on 6 June 2013 (the designation 2013 LR6 means the 167th object discovered between 1 and 15 June 2013), is a 10 m object in a near-Earth orbit that passed over the Earth at a height of 105 000 km at 4.42 am GMT on Saturday 8 June 2013 (the moon is on average 348 000 km above us). At it's closest point it was above the Southern Ocean to the south of Australia. Because of its small size and high velocity it is unlikely to have been spotted by amateur astronomers.

The orbit of 2013 LR6. Image created using the JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2013 LR6 is thought to have an orbit that brings it 6.3 million km inside the Earth's orbit (i.e 6.3 million km closer to the Sun that the Earth is) every 2.71 years, and takes it out to a distance of 2.93 AU from the Sun (i.e. 2.93 times as far from the Sun as the Earth, or 1.75 times as far from the Sun as Mars). It does not approach the Earth each time it reaches the innermost part of its orbit; it is not scheduled to come close to us again till 2053, when it will reach approximately 18.5 million km from the Earth. However it is likely that today's close encounter with the Earth will have changed its orbital perameters somewhat. Even if 2013 LR6 were to hit us it would be unlikely to do any serious damage; a 10 meter object would break up in the atmosphere, with only scattered chunks reaching the ground.

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